Getting this opportunity to blog regularly about policing issues is a real treat for me. I've always been intrigued by policing, and later in my career, became increasingly intrigued by the environment within which policing happens. Indulge me for a minute while I tell you how I arrived here, or there I guess- you see I'm not a cop anymore.
I retired in 2012 after twenty-eight years in policing, the last nine of which were at the executive level as Deputy Chief (two years), and then Chief of Police for the last seven. Before we begin any discussion around policing, I think it's important to think about why we choose policing as a career to begin with. This is how it went for me.
I had a seed of policing in my mind from early childhood, planted perhaps by watching TV shows such as Hawaii 5-0, Adam 12, The Streets of San Francisco, maybe even Barney Miller, and most certainly Hill Street Blues. Pop culture, whether we like it or not, has a tremendous influence on the way we see the world, the way that we sense our own place the world, and our role in society. Policing dramas are full of role models, whether good or bad, for young men and women. They often depict an action-oriented job, with a mix of glamour, danger, simple solutions and resolutions, and community service. The protagonists are most often admired, if not idolized.
I had real life role models as well. There were a handful of Moncton City Police officers living right in the neighbourhood where I grew up, and our family knew both them and their families. They coached sports and lived ordinary lives, but worked in an exciting job. They were brave, and I wanted to be brave. When Cst. Michael O'Leary and Cpl. Aurele Bourgeois were murdered on the job in 1974, I was 12 years old. It was a gritty, cold and brutal murder, and I witnessed the outpouring of support and admiration from the community to these officers and their families. My world had changed, and my role models had as well.
Years later, as I began my undergraduate studies at the University of New Brunswick in 1981, my big brother was graduating from UNB and joining the RCMP. The die was set; three years later, I followed.
Reflecting back on my choice of policing as a career, I now know that it was the combination of the action and adventure of the pop culture role models, along with a strong desire to be admired and supported for serving the community like what I witness in Moncton, and finally my brother as a family role model joining the RCMP that together drew me into this career.
So now that we've chosen policing as a career, let's go into the issues and challenges that come with that choice.
We'll begin that discussion next time.
Read Why university degrees are important in policing and Police and the media.
About Barry MacKnight
Barry MacKnight is the owner of MacKnight Consulting and Chief of Police (retired) of Fredericton Police Force (2005-2012). With a wealth of experience gained from close to 30 years in the Canadian policing environment, MacKnight helped develop the Bachelor of Arts in Policing program at Laurier.