Can you picture dinner conversation in an RCMP officer’s home after a typical day on duty in Terrace?
“So what did you do today, dear?”
“Drove around downtown picking up drunks.”
“Isn’t that what you did yesterday?”
“How can this town have so many drunks?”
“We recycle them. We jail them until they’re sober, then release them into the population to drink themselves into another stupor and round them up at ATMs or in Brolly Square.”
Picture dinner talk at another officer’s home:
“Anything unusual happen on your watch today?”
“Beyond picking up litter left by an arson in Brolly Square? Counselling a teen on why and how to sidestep cyber bullying? Shovelling snow out of a driveway?”
“Isn’t keeping a driveway clear the responsibility of homeowners?”
“Yes, if they are grownups. This snowbank was about to blow up into a ski hill. I grabbed a shovel and tossed it.”
“Good work, dear, but when you signed on as a recruit, Regina didn’t say you’d be dispensing legal advice or counselling teenagers. They only said you might flip hamburgers for charity drives.”
“I also didn’t expect to be another Nanny Jo Frost lecturing a 5-year-old on why he should buckle up, play Dr. Phil to parents at wit’s end with their repeat teen runaways, be Dr. Drew to foster parents charged with the care of disrespectful teens, referee fisticuffs between battling drunks, separate hair-pulling cousins, or operate an unlicensed taxi service delivering battered spouses to Ksan House either.”
Yet those atypical duties account for much of the on-duty time of Terrace’s finest in addition to what we have come to expect from them – clearing our highways of drunks and speeders, capturing thieves and arsonists, taming noisy parties, assisting with Search and Rescue, and doling out teddy bears to calm toddlers traumatized by some accident or family mishap.
But such irregular duties are far from unique. In truth, the force has a history of assigning duties not listed in their job descriptions.
Ruth Lee-Knight, a Mountie’s wife, in her book “When the Second Man Was a Woman”, published in 2004, collected the personal accounts of 20 other wives besides herself who provided free backup while their respective husbands were the entire staff at some remote outpost mainly in Saskatchewan from the 1940s through the 1950s.
The wives – even those with newborn babies to care for – were pressed into service strip searching female prisoners, cooking meals for all prisoners and visiting inspectors, accompanying their husbands when transferring prisoners to larger detachments or to court, answering the detachment phone, taking messages, even accepting fines when their husbands were put on patrol.
Any recent grad undecided about whether to attend university to earn an academic degree or pursue hands-on training in a trade could do worse than sign on as an RCMP recruit.
Training, room and board, and a snappy uniform are all taxpayer funded, bringing the training within the financial grasp of any academically qualified individual with an unblemished legal history.
At the end of the training, the recruit will have sampled and received at least introductory training in a dozen or more lines of work including law, education, public relations, peer counselling, first aid and CPR, fast food cooking, report writing, defensive driving and standing tall.
By then, the recruit can confidently select a life’s work, tie a tie and look the world in the eye.
Claudette Sandecki’s on duty in Thornhill, BC.