The following submission appeared in “We Are Newton: A Neighbourhood Anthology.” See here for more information about the project.
Name Withheld By Request
The following story is about an encounter I had at the Newton Bus Loop. I’ve left out the names (including my own) as this story is not about me. It is about changing perspectives and social understanding.
A couple of years ago I was on foot patrol at the Newton Bus Loop. As I conducted my patrol and was about to leave the area, I heard someone shout out my name from across the bus loop.
I turned to look and I noticed a female approaching me. When we met up the female said, “You don’t recognize me, do you?” and she stated her name. She then explained that about six years before we had met up in the same area under very different circumstances. The last time we met she was intoxicated. As she spoke, my memory was jarred and I recalled the situation.
I had received a call for an intoxicated female in the Newton Bus Loop area. When I arrived on scene I realized I had known the woman before I became a police officer. She was several years younger than I am. Seeing her in that condition upset me, but I had to maintain my composure and professionalism and hide my emotions. However, maintaining my composure did not change my concern for her well-being.
During our second meeting at the bus loop she said, “The last time we saw each other you changed my life. What you said changed how I look at myself. What you did opened my eyes to what I was capable of. I could own my decisions and not let them own me.”
Our regular routine as police is to take an intoxicated person to the drunk tank or to the hospital (depending on how intoxicated a person is).
But the first time I met her, I took it upon myself to use my position as a police officer in the best way I could in the moment. I decided to have a conversation with her and offer her assistance/resources at a place where she could get sober and create a long-term plan.
Instead of taking her to our usual places, I decided to take her to a recovery house. After placing her in my police vehicle, I located a recovery house I was familiar with. I went up to the front door and explained what I was working with before I took her in.
I went back to the car and she and I had a discussion. I recall saying something like, “I will never judge you for what you are doing. That is not my job to do so. I can, however, provide you with some insights, How others look at you is not as important as how you look at yourself. I do, however, see how that can affect someone. You do not have to live up to what others expect of you. You have it within your control to change your perspective. Reputations are built over a lifetime, not a short time in someone’s life. You may be living up to the expectations of others. Perhaps try living up to the expectations you put on yourself.”
As I recall, she began to cry. It was clear that she was listening to me. I said that I would give her an opportunity and not just dump her off at jail or the hospital. I told her that I trusted she would make the right choices the best way she knew how. I then released her to the recovery house and was on my way.
I had not seen her until our second meeting in the same area. She then said, “I would like you to meet some people in my life.”
She then called a male over with a baby stroller. “This is my family. I now have a little girl and a full-time job. Thank you for taking the time. Since then I have been doing my best to be a good mother, spouse and citizen. I heard and understood what we talked about the last time we met.” I shook hands with her spouse, she gave me a hug and we parted ways.
I share this story not to give credit to myself but to recognize and give credit to her. She and I are both First Nations. There has been a stigma on us for generations. With that stigma comes expectations. I have heard stories and received thanks throughout my career as a police officer, but this particular story stands out to me. She took it upon herself to dig deep and allowed herself to “be the change.” She allowed herself to be a good mother, spouse and citizen.
There are many more stories similar to this one, I am sure. This just happens to be one that I was involved in, and I am honoured to have been a part of it.