Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Calgary Police Service Graduation - Recruit Class 195

On August 26, 2011 Recruit Class 195 graduated into the Calgary Police Service. The graduating class performed a series of drills and received their badges.

This is the Speech that Police Chief Rick Hanson gave to the new Constables:

Congratulations Class 195, and thank you for choosing the Calgary Police Service!

Graduates, over the past five months you have learned many skills necessary to be a police officer. You have learned about the criminal code and how to apply it. You’ve learned about provincial statutes, municipal bylaws, and all things that contribute to maintaining a civil society. You have also learned about using your personal discretion when enforcing the law, because the judicious and intelligent application of persuasion, combined with the timely application of the appropriate law, leads to creating safety in our city, in a respectful manner.

You have learned the hard skills required to do your job. You know how to shoot a gun, drive a car, apply the powers of arrest and use technology to most effectively be a police officer.

And, you have learned the core values of the Calgary Police Service – honesty, integrity, respect, fairness and compassion, and courage.

Today I want to talk to you about compassion – treating people with empathy and understanding. Perhaps more than any other action taken by a police officer, the demonstration of compassion, when dealing with others, has the longest lasting and most significant impact. Compassion is what people will remember the most about you, over the course of your career. There will be certain incidents you investigate and certain arrests you’ll remember for their impact. But, it’s those one-on-one encounters, with an individual who is going through what may be the most difficult time of their life, where they are looking for help or guidance, or sometimes even just a sympathetic ear, that will last the longest in your memory.

All too often, in an affluent city like Calgary, people do not have equal opportunity for success. Many people face significant challenges where they have suffered the loss of someone close or are feeling isolated and alone, or at a loss for what to do. It is at these times where your involvement as a police officer, your willingness to lend a listening ear, your willingness to be patient, and kind and to provide the needed help for that person may well have significance that goes far beyond that event or that day.

In these situations, and many others like them, it is the actions taken by you, as a police officer, at a time when an individual’s life could be at its darkest, is what that person may remember for the rest of their life.

LETTER: (Police Officer's name changed to 'Bill' for privacy reasons)

“In December 2010 I placed a call to the Calgary Distress Centre. Based on a comment regarding self-harm that I made to one of their volunteers, the police were called to come to my home to take me to the hospital.

Two police officers and an officer in training showed up around midnight. I was unimpressed. I was hysterical. I thought I could negotiate my way out of a hospital visit. I had previously been to the hospital on a voluntary basis and found little help. I have been hospitalized several times since that night, and although I have been made safe from myself, I have found little help for my emotional problems.

The police officer who took the lead that night was named Bill. I remember that he introduced himself by his first name, which I found strange. He sat down when he talked to me, which I also found strange. At that point I didn’t realize that these officers were going to be taking me to the Foothills, whether I consented or not. I remember begging them not to take me in. I cried. I probably swore and complained about the inadequacies of our mental health services here in Calgary.
At one point through my tears, I asked Bill why he cared whether I wanted to live or die and why couldn't he just leave me alone.

Bill's answer was this: “You are my sister on this earth and that’s why I care whether you live or die.” I don’t remember anything else he said that night.

It’s months later and although my emotional problems have resolved to some degree, I still have moments in time where I feel that suicide is the only option. When those moments arise there is no drug to help me. What gets me through those moments are Bill's words. This officer, this man who doesn’t know me, made the choice to gently negotiate for my life by choosing words that have been such a comfort and life-affirming gift every day since.

Thank you Bill.”

As a police officer, often you will be expected to be rough and tough, to stand firm in the face of violence and confrontation. There will even be those rare times when you may have to resort to use of deadly force in order to protect yourself or members of the community. Try not to let this rougher edge of policing harden you to the point where you lose your ability to be compassionate to those in need.

The value of compassion exists within the Calgary Police Service, because we truly do make a difference. As you begin your career today, always remember, that as respected members of community, police officers provide many functions. Know when it is time to lead with your heart. These times will impact you significantly throughout your career, and they will be the ones you remember years after you retire.

Finally, as you leave here today, always remember…be vigilant in performing your duties, be courageous and take pride in the contribution you make.

And…welcome to the Calgary Police Service!

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