Blue Line

Features Editor’s Commentary
Adapting together in times of uncertainty: thank you, technology

May 6, 2020  By Renée Francoeur

A sample of #positivepolicechallenge photos from Instagram.

I wasn’t going to write another editorial on the impacts of COVID-19, but then how can I not? So much has changed since my last one — so much is still changing on the daily — and it remains the most pressing development in all of our lives.

That collectivity piece — how each and every one of us on the planet has been touched by this in one way or another — continues to really strike a chord with me. We may be social distancing right now, but in a way, I have never felt more connected. I find myself calling, texting, FaceTiming and Zooming more than ever before. (Fun fact: I’ve never exchanged as many emojis with my grandmother as I have this past April.)

Pandemics “remind us of how connected we all are,” writes Valerie Earnshaw in a piece for the Harvard Business Review. “Our shared vulnerability to this virus is a source of solidarity.”

As expected, I am seeing this solidarity expressed beautifully across our Canadian law enforcement family. Who else was thrilled to wake up one morning and find Twitter and Instagram teeming with #positivepolicechallenge photos?


The captions would read something along the lines of “We are asking all of those who serve or have served their community as a police officer to join the challenge of posting a picture of yourself in uniform. One picture, no description. The goal is to flood social media with positive photos instead of negativity.”

It might sound like such a little thing, but these photos of officers and wide-eyed children, playful police dogs, and some pretty epic bike shots certainly brought a smile to my face — especially Toronto Police Officer Randall Arsenault’s snap of his fuchsia manicure while in uniform. Then there was the video shared by Calgary Police of Const. Ryan Self, who was out on patrol when he happened to come across a “social distancing” line dance in the parking lot of a well-known Stampede hot spot, Ranchman’s Cookhouse and Dancehall. Self joined in and we weren’t the only ones who appreciated his patterned foot movements — Narcity Media noticed, too.

“COVID-19 has changed the way we do things, but connecting with Calgarians is always important to us,” the service posted on Facebook.

It is work to remain positive as our carefully constructed norms fall to pieces and we continue to have no concrete details on what the future holds — makes it hard to reassure an anxious, frightened public. It is work to try to practice gratitude and lasso silver linings as we grieve the loss of traditional shift parades, family gatherings, vacation plans, or even as we grieve the loss of times of less PPE (personal protective equipment). But it is work we are doing and I am proud of all of us.

So, keep sharing the photos and the connectivity innovations — I see some of you are successfully using Microsoft Teams for your ops meetings for example. And the non-profit Boots on the Ground presented a “Frontline and Family Wellness Chat” over video in mid-April in partnership with two psychologists that you can check out at:

I myself hosted a virtual roundtable with five of our leaders in Canadian law enforcement from the RCMP, Delta Police Department, York Regional Police Service, Edmonton Police Service and Saskatoon Police Service. We discussed how everyone is addressing PPE issues and concerns, as well as other aspects of crisis management. It was a refreshing and enjoyable opportunity to learn, share and connect, and I hope to do more of these video calls. You can watch it here.

Don’t forget, if you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed or anything, you’re not alone, and there are peer support groups, like Badge of Life Canada, your local Beyond the Blue organization, etc., that you can chat with who have been first responders and who understand.

“Just because we’re self-isolating doesn’t mean we have to stop communicating with people; do it online,” said Dave McLennan, former police officer and Boots on the Ground president, during his “Frontline and Family Wellness Chat.”

With that, know I wish you solid Wi-Fi connections and/or decent data plans, and peace and health, calm and safety. We are in this together.

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