COLUMN: A long day in the life of an RCMP officer

COLUMN: A long day in the life of an RCMP officer

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(Richard McGuire photo)

By Nicole Kriesel

Special to the Chronicle

It’s 8 a.m. and you’ve checked into the admitting desk of the hospital emergency room, waiting to see a doctor.

Unfortunately, as you were leaving for work this morning, you tripped over that bike you left outside the front door last night, and now you think you’ve sprained your ankle.  It really stings, and you can’t seem to think of anything else. You know it’s your own fault and you think to yourself, “If I had only put it away yesterday like I meant to, this wouldn’t have happened’.” You’re tired, hurting and irritable and just want the doctor to do something.

Two hours go by and you’re still waiting (not really) patiently.  Name after name is called, and not one of them is yours. You’re beginning to feel angry and unsatisfied at the poor service. Why should you have to wait this long? This isn’t right!

Fifteen minutes later an ambulance arrives with a woman strapped to the gurney.  As it bursts through the doors you can see through her oxygen mask that she has a bloody lip and a severe black eye. You are left wondering what happened to her, and if she’ll be okay.

The next name called is that awkward teenager and her irritated mother sitting in the far corner.  You can see from your seat what looks to be cigarette burns all over her forearms. How did this poor young lady get to this point?  How could she feel so self-destructive?  You feel sad for her.  Maybe no one is listening.

A short while later, as you’re about to doze off in your uncomfortable chair, the entrance doors pour open again, and you can see an ambulance patient being rushed through while paramedics perform chest compressions. It was a car accident; a drunk driver. Time goes by again, and as you’re impatiently and curiously peering into the “authorized only” area, you witness the doctor tell the frantic family member how sorry they are and that they did everything they could. Your heart is now in your throat.

Still in shock, and trying to process what has just taken place, your name is finally called, and you are summoned into the triage room. You’re still trying to swallow the trauma you’ve just witnessed when the doctor comes in to take a look at your ankle. He seems a bit cold and his assessment is very short. There’s not much they can do at this point; ice it, keep your weight off of it and take some anti-inflammatory medication. You feel very anti-climactic and realize how minor your issue was compared to so many others. Even though your ankle hurt, how could you even be angry for having to wait, especially after what you’ve just witnessed? How does that doctor carry on after that?

Rewind

It’s 8 a.m. and you’ve called the RCMP to report a stolen bike. Unfortunately, as you were leaving for work this morning, you noticed that the bike you left outside the front door last night had been stolen. It really stings, and you can’t seem to think of anything else. Why is this happening? You feel violated. You shouldn’t have to worry about your things getting stolen, even if you’ve left it out . . . you’ve always done that; you’ve never locked it up. You’re tired, anxious and irritable and just want them to do something.

Two hours go by and you’re still waiting (not really) patiently for someone to call you. Hour after hour goes by, and no one gets back to you. You’re beginning to feel angry and unsatisfied at the poor service.  Why should you have to wait this long?  Why are they not contacting me?  This isn’t right! I’m going to write a very angry letter.

Consider me the “ghost of Christmas present,” leading you through simultaneous daily police scenarios.

What you don’t realize is that while you’re waiting for a call about your bike, the RCMP is attending a call to that domestic dispute where the woman was severely beaten and the children witnessed the whole incident. The suspect fled, the woman has been transported to the hospital, and what’s best for the children is still being decided.

What you don’t realize is that while you’re waiting for a call about your bike, the RCMP is attending the scene of that horrible fatal car accident, and now have to inform the next of kin that their loved one isn’t coming home. It’s hard to comprehend what it’s like to try to eat their lunch while processing the sad truth of what they’ve just witnessed. How does a person continue out into the public pretending that it’s just like every other day after something like that?

What you don’t realize is that while you’re waiting for a call about your bike, the RCMP member has scheduled time to have a one-on-one with that awkward teenager who just needs to be heard, and because of these meetings, she has stopped hurting herself. Did you know that our officers do this kind of outreach when they haven’t even eaten dinner, or been home to see their own children yet today?

What you don’t realize is that while you’re still waiting, the RCMP member has just gone home after a 30-hour shift due to a stand-off, only to sleep for four hours before returning to start their paperwork.

What you don’t realize is that while you’re waiting, the RCMP continue on through their day despite being accused of not doing their jobs. God forbid they take a coffee break.

We need to remember that there are always things happening for our RCMP. Just because we don’t witness it like you would sitting in the hospital ER, doesn’t mean it is non-existent. Give them the benefit of the doubt.  Priority sequence determines their response time and it is always going to be the rule of thumb. I know first-hand that they will contact you when they can. Don’t be offended if they seem indifferent or impersonal when they finally meet with you, as you have no idea what kind of call they have just returned from. Think about what our officers must deal with on any given day.  We should all be so lucky to not have those visuals in our heads.

We all know there is a shortage of RCMP and that they are stretched to the limit. It’s not just in Oliver.  It’s everywhere.  Many communities are dealing with the very same addictions, crime issues and staffing shortages just like we are.  We have already been approved for our new officers and are in queue waiting our turn, just like many other communities. It’s not as simple as going to the RCMP store, picking out the best two and bringing them home. Recruitment is an entirely different issue.

At the very least, let’s do our part and try to help minimize the petty opportunist crime by making sure our properties are not attractive to thieves and criminals. Lock your vehicles, your houses and don’t leave things out in plain sight. Fewer incidents equals less time spent and less paperwork so our officers can be used where they are truly needed in the community.

It’s unfortunate that the addiction in our society is what it is today. We know it is the driving force of much of the crime that ensues. We need to foresee and accept the fact that addicts and criminals will behave a certain way if we give them the opportunity.  It is what it is. We have this knowledge so let’s use it.

The game has changed, and so must we. Sometimes we all need a little bit of perspective.

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