Canada breathed a huge sigh of relief late Thursday evening as the news broke out of Moncton that a young man (whose name we will not dignify by publishing), wanted for the death of three RCMP Officers, had been arrested without further loss of life.
The nation had held its collective breath, along with those in the city of Moncton, through the long hours when the gunman was on the loose after his deadly rampage directed at police officers. In the end the Mounties got their man, who was arrested without a shot being fired.
But shots could have been fired, had been fired, and the police officers in Moncton carried out their task with professionalism and dedication in the face of overwhelming grief and obvious danger. I am sure every RCMP officer across the country feels very, very proud to have the right to wear that red serge suit today.
The RCMP has had some terrible press in recent years, and I am not going to argue for one second that some of it wasn’t deserved.
But… look at what they did last week. Look where it happened and look how they handled it. Sleepy, peaceful Moncton, which bears the title of the most polite city in Canada.
Suddenly it makes the national news for all the wrong reasons and RCMP members are tasked with protecting an entire community from an armed man, while dealing with the fact that three of their own have already fallen.
No doubt, police officers who are posted to Moncton expect to deal with the variety of crime that is present in every Canadian city. Just as those posted to Kimberley and Cranbrook expect the same.
And they deal with plenty. Police officers routinely meet up with the worst society has to offer — stepping into domestic disputes, bar fights, drug deals and more. It has to wear on you, constantly seeing the worst.
But more than that, police officers go out every day and night knowing that what happened in Moncton could happen anywhere. They don’t expect it, but the knowledge is there. And so is the training. What unfolded before our eyes on national television last week was a look at highly trained individuals doing what their jobs demanded — complete attention to the task at hand no matter the emotions.
Let’s face it — a lot of people don’t have overwhelmingly positive feelings towards police. When we see a cruiser we tend to tense up, perhaps curse at its presence and hope they didn’t notice we were going slightly over the speed limit. Side bar: They probably noticed.
What we don’t feel is gratitude, or even an appreciation of how difficult the work of a police officer is. We certainly don’t think that the officer left home knowing he or she might not return. I doubt the police officers themselves consciously acknowledge that thought every time they put on the uniform. But acceptance of the uniform means acceptance of that fact. If something awful unfolds, police are out there trying to deal with it while we take shelter in our homes.
Just once in a while we should think about that.
If any good can come out of last week’s horrible events, let it be an increased appreciation for the front line that is out there every day and night dealing with mostly negative, sometimes life-threatening situations.
The next time you see a police officer, RCMP or otherwise, give them a smile, a wave. Even if you’re getting a traffic ticket, be nice about it. As last week proved, they are not the enemy. They are most often the last line of defence.
Let’s try to remember to be grateful for that.
Carolyn Grant is Editor of the Kimberley Daily Bulletin