We had a riot in Vancouver in 2011. It looked like mayhem. Cars on the street burnt to a blackened crisp, store windows smashed out, fearful citizens wondering what had happened to their beautiful city.
Then something amazing happened. The morning after, thousands of people flooded into the downtown area. They helped clean up the mess left from the awful events of the day before, anxious to set things right, and supportive of their police department.
National Thank a Police Officer Day was September 19th, a time for communities to pause and show their gratitude for the good work done by the police. And many did. It’s a good reminder of how much citizens appreciate the police, but that we don’t hear much about. Maybe they’re all part of that silent majority we know exists.
So we know a lot of the community are grateful for the police, but what do the police think of the work they do?
Police officers know about the great things street cops do, the thousands of positive contacts each day, the awesome help given to the community that never makes the headlines. And of course we all know the other side of the coin, the one big, negative police incident that everyone reads about and that overshadows all the good stuff. Once you’ve been in policing for a while you know that it just happens. You learn to live with it.
It’s easy to slip into the “us versus them” frame of mind when that happens, the idea that nobody understands the police and everyone is against the thin blue line. It just can’t be that way though. As we saw on National Thank a Police Officer Day, there are too many good people out there who support the police for it to be “us versus them.” The police are also “them.” The original meaning of COP was Citizens on Patrol and it really is still that way today. Police officers are citizens too.
This can be a tough time to be a street cop. The police are more accountable than ever and it seems their every move is scrutinized. A police officer friend of mine was the subject of a three-year investigation. Cleared of any wrong-doing in the end, it took a heavy toll on him. Try sleeping at night when you’re under that kind of stress.
We just have to remember the good parts, the people who came out to clean up Vancouver after the riot, and those that remembered to say thank you on National Thank a Police Officer day.
It’s not all bad. It’s not perfect, but policing is a pretty fine way to spend one’s work life.
Retired Police Officer
Author of Second Careers for Street Cops
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