During my career as an educator and school principal, I worked with the RCMP in several communities. These experiences led me to the conclusion that effective community policing, in the long term, is dependent upon community support.
This support is best achieved, it seems, when officers are fully involved in the community they serve and exercise their authority with tact, discretion and…heart.
I am not saying that policing without heart doesnt work. However, policing with heart works much better because community support is greatly enhanced.
I remember one Staff Sergeant in particular who asked to be informed of the dates of school dances.
He knew, of course, that gatherings of young people bring the potential for trouble, and therefore encouraged his officers to enter the school in order to meet and visit with students and establish rapport.
Guess what? This approach ensured that tickets subsequently written were both fewer in number and received with much less resentment.
These same officers volunteered to coach our athletic teams, accepted invitations to visit classrooms, played scrimmage hockey, soccer and baseball with both kids and adults on weekends and always seemed to be in attendance at community functions sometimes in uniform, but often in civvies.
This Staff Sergeant sometimes bragged about the detachments 90 per cent plus crime solve rate, one of the best in Canada, and only possible, he said, because of the overwhelming community support for the RCMP. In fact, citizens pulled over by the police were embarrassed because they had offended a friend and neighbour, as well the law.
I believe promotion (albeit tongue-in-cheek!) of a confrontational attitude to policing does great disservice to the RCMP. Besides, our detachment has always brought a great deal of heart to its work, so why report otherwise? (I define heart as all those discretionary actions beyond ticketing, arresting, impounding, etc.).
25 years ago, one of Canadas finest, called my wife and I to offer personal assistance (by way of his private aircraft) to search for our 22-year-old daughter who had gone missing.
Regrettably, this story did not have a happy ending but I will always remember this act of compassion and friendship. Like many other members I have met, this man had a lot of heart and understood that police officers are, firstly, human beings and, then, cops.