Cop out

Last Thursday was a first for me in that I drove away from an event I had previously confirmed I would cover. And the experience left me with some insights from my kids, particularly my youngest son who had awoken early that morning and asked to come with me.

As a community newspaper, we’re always happy to cover stories that have anything to do with kids. And as we transition away from summer vacation and back to the books, an invitation by SPVM police to write about their presence at a West Island school’s first day as a reminder for drivers to be careful - “C’est pour les enfants!” - is an annual community reporting ritual.

“Will I get to sit in the police car?” my son asked. “Maybe,” I told him. “We’ll ask.”

A few years ago, I spent a Saturday evening shift riding along with two female SPVM officers from Pierrefonds for a series I was writing and was impressed not only with the myriad challenges and many roles they must adopt per shift – everything from mental health specialist to social worker – but also by their maturity and dedication to their roles within the community.

Upon arriving at the school my son said, “Those are the police? Why are they dressed like that?” of two officers sporting garish orange and pink camouflage pants.

I began to explain Bill 3 and the ongoing pension plan disputes and pressure tactics by public employees but he, and likely most of the kids walking to the school, didn’t grasp the connection.

The incident reminded me of a teachers’ union pressure tactic a few years back where elementary school children were told not to bring their Halloween costumes to class, but were permitted only to wear orange and black clothing, despite my boy persistently asking the staff , “Why?” (Hey, he’s the son of a journalist.)

Using kids as a pawn in any power struggle just ain’t right.

I was told by another SPVM officer recently that the order to wear either camo or jeans, along with the red caps, is by order of their union. “On a pas de choix,” she said.

Maybe not but there’s a world of difference, in the eyes of a kid, between a more than six-foot tall police officer wearing retina-searing pink camo pants or plain dark jeans.

There’s an appropriate time and place to fight union battles and in front of a bunch of elementary school children, those who still believe in heroes, isn’t it.

My eldest will soon complete high school and be off to Cegep where a world of opportunity, and potentially dubious circumstances, await.

“If you ever found yourself in trouble, would you feel comfortable approaching a police officer?” I asked him.

“Sure,” he replied.

“What if he was wearing pink-spotted pants?”

He thought about it for a while before responding, “Probably not.”

While I don’t like reneging on my agreement to write the article, I appreciate the ensuing teaching opportunity and discussion with my youngest as we sat in my car watching the camouflage parade and, particularly, for the chance to illustrate to him that professionalism is a two-way street.