Inner City Diary
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Full-time cops can't be part-time idiots
September 26, 2004
The reporter asked a simple question: "How do you feel hearing that a party bus with some off-duty cops picked up a prostitute for some fun, and later dropped her off without paying her?"

One week later, I'm still asking myself that question -- especially when I see a squad car driving by or an officer walking down the street.

Local Police Service Centres symbolize a co-operation which connects cops with community in the best ways possible. Now I have mixed feelings as I pass.  

First, I didn't want to believe it was true.

Despite numerous disappointments in life, I still want to believe and expect the best from people.

Next, I took it personally. Then I started getting angry.

If the allegations are true, it means that these guys disrespected our community. And we have a right to expect the respect of our police officers.

I talked with the reporter about the fact that it didn't really make a difference that the cops under investigation were "off-duty." Something bugs me about the fact that a guy would respect our community just while he's being paid to do so. But as soon as he's no longer paid to care, he joins those abusing the community.

It's impossible to flip the switch between being an "off-duty" offender and an "on-duty" officer. If they want to be part-time idiots they should forfeit the right to be full-time cops.

There are two options. One is that his on-duty respect for community concerns will find its way into his off-duty lifestyle. On the other hand, his off-duty disrespect for people will likely find its way into his attitude while on-duty.

Not knowing who the officers were, I started wondering if they were some of the cops I knew.

I really didn't like how this thought started playing with my mind.

It started to play on my recollections of many of my interactions with police. Could it be that one of the cops I trusted to care for us didn't really care after all?

Maybe he politely acknowledged my concerns or accepted my information, knowing he wouldn't take it seriously. Maybe he was inwardly mocking my concern.

It may have been one of the guys who's told us, "Well, that's just the way it is in neighbourhoods like yours."

It's as if people in our neighbourhood don't have a right to expect safety or the best efforts of our officers. Was it one of the officers who leaves some locals feeling we are somehow less worthy of defence than the neighbourhoods in which they live?

Maybe -- and this is really bad -- he wouldn't do anything about it because he himself is involved.

We don't know if the allegations against Bruce Huynen are true, and certainly he is entitled to the presumption of innocence, but I found myself wondering if I ever told him anything of significance about the flow of drugs in our neighbourhood. It made me glad I never pass along the names of people who give information about criminal operations in our area. I'll pass on the information, without revealing the source.

I started wondering, if the department suspected him of tipping off criminals about investigations or enforcement, why they would transfer him to a community office where he had the opportunity to betray the trust of even more citizens?

But most of all, I feel sorry for the good cops. They don't deserve the slam against their collective reputation.

There are people in this city who hate cops. Some have problems with anyone in authority. Some have had bad experiences with specific cops or have overheard the policing problems of others.

Whatever the reason, there are folks in Winnipeg who relish spreading whatever garbage they can on cops. It's easy to spot these folks, whether they're journalists, politicians or coffee shop gossips. They take every opportunity to condemn cops, but conveniently miss any opportunity to commend them. It's like they don't even want to run the chance of changing their mind or dropping their grudge.

I talked with a couple of cops around the time the story hit the news. It was like they were apologizing for the actions of others -- even though they had nothing to do with it. I felt bad for them.

There are bad apples in every cart.

Every profession contains a sampling of society. High ideals and low morals, the good and the bad, the real deal and total fakes. There are some rotten clergymen, journalists, financial workers, social workers and politicians. That doesn't mean they're all bad.

Let's watch carefully how the department handles the recent charges.

But don't forget about the good cops.

The ones who brave daily disrespect and doubts to keep doing their job because they care about the community.

The ones for whom "to serve and protect" is not just a function of their employment, but a reflection of their character.
Copyright 2004
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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