Today is the ceremonial funeral for a Member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who was killed while on duty. I didn’t know Constable Sarah Beckett, but in the 20+ years I have worked for the RCMP in various administrative support capacities and places, I have met many like her.
We know Sarah was a dedicated officer as well as a wife and mother. She had a life outside her job. She was a fellow Canadian, not just a uniform. I expect to shed tears while watching her funeral this afternoon. I grieve along with her compatriots, family, and friends that one so young has passed away so soon.
I understand the possibility of death is part of a police officer’s job. Sadly, we have seen too many regimental funerals in the last few years. And that is not counting the many Members who have not had the pomp and ceremony because an illness or suicide has ended their life.
It is said stress kills. Of the top causes of death in Canada, which include cancer, heart disease, and suicide, negative stress contributes to all. So why would a young person (or a more mature person, as some new recruits are in their 40’s), choose a job that causes stress just by getting dressed for work? And then choose to respond to the ugliest parts of life and society in their job? Usually the answer they give is, “to help people”.
As much as I have been exposed to the same incidents through paperwork, I am not daily exposed to the physical danger the Members are in each and every shift. There was that time when a man committed suicide outside the door I used to enter the building – if I had been at the door, would he have shot me, too? And that time when the victim who passed by my desk turned out to be the offender, with a concealed knife. And that time when the tires of my car were slashed… Still, those few incidents, which could have gone sideways but didn’t, do not begin to compare to what the Members willingly handle each day, at the office, in their patrol vehicle, interacting with you, the public for whom they are “maintaining the peace”.
How can we show admiration and appreciation for the men and women who are every-day heroes in red serge?
- Wearing red on the day of a funeral is only a beginning. Would you take a card to your local Detachment? They don’t need donuts, contrary to popular belief. A note of appreciation means a lot! Or post a note on the RCMP website.
- Assist the Members in your community to maintain a healthy work/life balance.
When you see them in the grocery store, don’t tell them about the speeding ticket you received – they need to develop and maintain a life outside of work. Instead, talk about sports, or the local school events. Members want to be part of the community they serve, and they need to see more than the negative and ugly which is their job to handle. Help them become resilient to that constant and overwhelming negative that skews their worldview by allowing and encouraging them to see the good and positive in your community.
- Above all, when you have interaction with a police officer who is in uniform, please, please, please give him/her the information they are asking for. There are a growing number of videos on the internet showing otherwise law-abiding citizens refusing to give their name to an officer. Do you have to? While some say no, really, as a person who has not done anything wrong, why would you not? They are not bullying, or using their position of authority just because they can. Normally they are just checking who is in the area to keep the neighbourhood safe. I realize immigrants and refugees who have experience with a corrupt police force in their home country may be less trusting, but positive interactions with the RCMP and other police forces can change that. But our own citizenry? The distrust shown by Canadians is perhaps because there is such widespread communication through social media about the few incidents where a police officer has done wrong. Yes, some do – but the vast majority are good, if not excellent law enforcement officers.
Truly, healthy police officers with a good work/life balance can be resilient to the compounding negative aspects of their job, so will not become an officer who abuses their authority. Encourage them to stay healthy, with appreciation, care, and respect.