Holding the Line
Police officers are still part of the village
“It takes a village to raise a child.”
By Michelle Vincent
When you hear this expression, you may think of how that applies to when you were a child. Or perhaps you are currently raising your own children and wishing you had that village experience. Whatever stage you are at, the influence of the “village,” or our community, when it comes to major life changes cannot be understated — and nor should it be underutilized.
As police officers we tend to engage in calls with a degree of community in our minds, as many of us came in with the objective of serving those very communities. When we set out for our day or night shift with the intention of this objective, it can be challenging to see ourselves as a member within our communities. It’s easy to forget that though we serve our communities, we are also a part of them.
I am fortunate that in my current position within my police organization I have the opportunity to engage with many outstanding members of our community. In one instance, I met a fine Toronto police officer — I learned afterwards he was a serving member — who began to tell me a story highlighting the relationship between police and the wider community. I must admit, at first I anticipated a negative, dismal outcome based on how his story began. I figured it was headed in the direction where once again, we as officers would end up looking bad in the eyes of the public due to a misunderstanding. To my surprise, the story this officer told warmed my heart and reminded me of how connected and supported we really are by our community members.
This officer was working a paid duty and was required to keep a busy intersection clear of pedestrians and traffic while construction was underway. A female who appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis was positioned in the middle of this intersection, refusing to leave. The officer asked her politely to leave the intersection and realized the only way to keep her safe at this point was to remove her physically in as gentle a manner as possible.
However, at the same time the female began to remove her clothing. As the officer looked up, hoping for support and yet also fearing how this unfolding debacle appeared to onlookers who may not understand a person experiencing a mental health crisis, he noticed two females who looked genuinely concerned for the well-being of the woman.
After apprehending the female, the officer took a chance and asked the two female bystanders if they might help dress the woman in order to preserve her dignity.
Without hesitation these women began to dress the female, changing the entire experience from a headline of “Uncaring police officer removing now naked female from intersection during paid duty,” to “Kind police officer understanding and supporting a female in crisis,” and getting her the help she clearly needed at this time.
This was all a result of the officer reading the crowd and taking a chance on the old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Let’s not forget we work as officers in communities that very much still support our actions and efforts, despite what the barrage of various media accounts depict. Let’s strive to maintain faith that just as we go out to serve, doing our very best with the tools we have at the time, that the members of our community are just as altruistic, waiting for us to direct them in how they can best support us.
Finally, thank you to the officer who shared this story and those two community members who helped restore the faith in the saying, “It takes a village to raise a child.”
Michelle Vincent is a 15-year York Regional Police officer with a Masters Degree in Arts in Counselling Psychology and a background in equine assisted therapy, workplace reintegration and teaching. Her counselling practice is supervised by a psychologist with a specialty in addictions and trauma. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org.