Police officers deserve our support

When I was growing up in Fort Frances, the police department only had two cars and the station was a small brick building attached to the old town hall.
The town hall, the fire department, and the police station all existed in the space in front of the current Civic Centre.
Louis Camirand was the chief of police back then. There was a story that circulated around Fort Frances that if you ended up in front of him in his office, he would pull his revolver from its holster and slam it on the desk loud enough to make you jump—and wonder why it hadn’t fired.
The fear of being in that chair facing the chief probably scared a lot of young men into not breaking the law.
Back then, the officers were found walking up and down the streets, circulating at hockey games, and wandering through the parade crowds talking and meeting the public.
Today, in dark blue uniforms and wearing wrap-around sunglasses, officers travel in vehicles and seldom make an appearance on the main streets. They appear like cyborg warriors.
I remember the Royal Theatre show getting out late and running as fast as we could, darting down back alleys and trying to stay off the main street after the 9:30 p.m. curfew whistle had sounded. Being caught was a crime.
But back then, officers like Jim York and Elmer Seline would just as likely take you home as take you to the station to have your parents come and pick you up. Instead, they would give you and your parents a strong talking to.
It was practical justice.
Policing has changed a lot since the 1950s and ’60s, and many of the things officers have to deal with today were swept under the carpet as society didn’t want to acknowledge many family issues.
Until 1965, there was only one road in and out of Fort Frances.
At dances, whether at the arena or at the high school, the police were there to make sure alcohol was not being smuggled in. And if you were caught drinking, on the second occasion you ended back up at the police station and charged with under-age drinking.
Times were much simpler.
I don’t recognize many of the officers in Fort Frances anymore, and have been totally surprised when someone has spoken to me when they were off-duty and I didn’t recognize them out of uniform.
I know that a lot of the things that officers did in their off-time in the community in my younger years still are being done by officers in their off-time today.
Often our police officers are away unexpectedly on special assignment and end up missing out on milestones of their own children’s growing up. Or they are called out from the dinner table or in the middle of the night for an emergency.
This week has been designated as “Police Week” in Ontario. There are many great stories out there about the contributions officers have made to people in the district.
They are the stories of kindness and of providing a helping hand to comforting a child to helping find a loved one who has wandered away and probably is lost.
We would like to hear about those stories to balance out the negatives that are far more common of our police forces. They are personal, yet they help everyone to understand that the officers of the district are more than the cyborg warriors who travel in those cars.
If you don’t have a story, take the time to say thank you to an officer. They are deserving of our support.

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