The Contrarian: Police Service

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I failed in my duty when I was about 4 years old.  My two year old sister disappeared while I was not paying attention. 

After frantically running around looking for her, I had to own up and wake my mother.  She was sleeping after a night shift at the ammunition factory; my dad was in Italy getting shot at.  It was wartime, and everybody had to do their part, even 4 year olds.  My mother did the same frantic search, and then we marched off to the local Winnipeg City Police station.  And there was Myrna, perched on the main counter, eating an ice cream cone one of the officers had run out and got, and entertaining the whole place with her chatter.  My mother was so relieved she forgot to punish my neglect.

That was when police were there to protect the people from wrong-doers, but also to help and serve the people.  We kids were all instructed that if we got in trouble, go to the nearest policeman. 

A month or so ago my wife called the Dryden Police to help her, she was on her way to an elderly relatives house in response to one of those personal alarm signals.  They got there almost as soon as she did, and were an enormous help and comfort.  Our Dryden Police Service (‘Service’, not ‘Force’) still subscribe to that old-fashioned ethic, as indeed does our city government, they are here to serve the people, not to dominate the people.

That’s not how it is in more ‘modern’ places (read, big American cities) where  government is the boss and sees its role to be keeping the people in line, obeying all the myriad laws they come up with ‘for our own good’.  The big police forces are becoming militarized, their job is to enforce that ‘government is boss’ mode.  They are the shepherd and we are the sheep, and the sheep who thinks for himself too much is likely to end up as lamb chops.

If my case had happened in a big American city today, my sister might have been sent to a ‘social services’ branch of government; the parent would be treated like a criminal because his child had strayed, and if he did not bow down and keep his mouth shut the child might be removed and put into foster care, even though it has been well documented that children in care do poorly indeed.  Government smart, people dumb.

Bureaucracies do what they do best, which is grow, and Ontario is no exception, its bureaucracies keep grabbing services from municipalities, and now it appears they are reaching out for our Police Service.   I have no quarrel with our Ontario Provincial Police, but we have lost so much, our hydro and telephone utilities; our regional police dispatch service; our regional recycling service; now perhaps our volunteer fire service, all of which provided much better service at much less cost than their replacement.  All eroding our heritage as what my hero former Mayor Jones described as a ‘Great Little Town’, and ‘Canadian Business’ magazine called ‘Town of the Year’ two years running.

So I hope we can keep our Police Service, bucking the ‘progressive’ trend, as a symbol of a town that still cares about and respects its people.

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