Yesterday I attended the Vancouver Police Department’s (VPD) Commendation Ceremony. We were regaled with tales of foot chases and hostage takings as the event honored officers who risked life and limb performing acts of heroism.
But as I watched the event unfold I couldn’t help but feel that for all the pomp and ceremony the real heroes were being ignored.
A few months ago I sat down for breakfast with a retired VPD constable in a tired little Downtown Eastside coffee shop.
Dave Dickson walked the beat in the Downtown Eastside for twenty-five years. He earned the respect of residents in an area where distrust of the police runs deep.
After retiring, he chose to stay involved in the community as the Sex Trade Liaison for the VPD. He had always helped the working girls and the new position made sense.
“My pager is on 24 hours a day and I’m always available to assist the girls when they get in trouble or have bad dates.
Some people will argue that we’re police officers not social workers, but when I talk to new recruits I tell them that that’s bullshit. I always tried to listen to people and help them with their problems.”
When speaking with Dickson I felt like I was in the presence of a humble avenger. He is a large man with an intimidating presence, but he speaks softly and obviously cares about those he serves.
Sometimes this meant going beyond the bounds of normal policing.
“I was willing to step out of the box and do things a bit differently.
For example, there was a girl who came to me and said there was a guy always hanging around trying to bother her. She’d call 911 and they’d say that they couldn’t do anything.
She calls me and I went down there and grabbed the guy. I told him to fuck off or I’d make his life miserable, he got the message and didn’t bother her anymore”.
As framed certificates are placed on walls in homes across the city, many of the everyday heroes are ignored.
We must honour police who spend their lives in the trenches fighting for those who have been forgotten by everyone else.