TWO years ago I approached the North Shore News with an offer to answer any question sent in by you if the editor agreed to publish the questions and answers in a column.
I had only two conditions: I would not comment on active investigations, and I would not have the option to choose the question - I had to answer whatever the editor sent to me.
Most of those questions have been about traffic. Some were about more obscure policing duties, and a handful probed a little deeper into my personal experience as a cop. These last have always been the most fun to answer, allowing me to talk about the unique perspective on life afforded to police officers every day.
Today, in the spirit of that viewpoint, I'm sharing a snapshot of the somewhat secretive place where it all started for me, just as it did for every other member of the RCMP: Depot.
I was at the academy in Regina between September and February, when the winter cold comes hard and sharp in that distinctly Prairie way. It was a winter unlike any I had ever experienced growing up on the West Coast.
As a cadet I ran everywhere: to the cafeteria, between classes, to the bathroom. And every morning, outside cereal box dormitories, I lined up with my mates in troop formation for our morning run. We stood in a column, our breath rising white, like smoke snaking slowly from chimney rows. It collected above us in the still air like smog, diffusing the pale light cast by the frosty sun.
For five kilometres we galloped across the frozen Shield, herding for comfort like caribou. Afraid to flag, I willed my body to make enough heat to keep moving. Moustaches turned to frozen waterfalls. My fingers numbed. A persistent cold-weather, exercise-induced cough set upon many of us like smallpox.
Yet the ritual of it made me feel powerful. After all, I was an RCMP cadet; strong, young, unstoppable, ready and willing to endure just about any pain in pursuit of an iconic badge. And I was at an elite training facility that was providing me with everything I needed to become a member of a world renowned law enforcement agency. Everything I needed, including socks.
On every one of those frozen mornings, I pulled on my Force-issued gold and blue-banded tube socks. Yes, tube socks. They were distinctly '70s-era and embarrassingly knee-high. I was reminded how I felt as a kid when my mother bought me GWGs from Woolco instead of Levi's from The Bay. I did not see that those socks would, in years to come, consistently reveal a truth to me: that for all my pride and bravado as a cop, I was no different from anyone else.
When we ran, slip-sliding across icy streets named after fallen Mounties, we fell, often hard, always fast and unexpected, sometimes cut by the frozen turf. We occasionally returned bloodied and bruised, "sucked it up," laughed at our pain.
Looking back, I see now that being a police officer is very much like those morning runs. Though like you we are exceptional, we are no less brittle as humans. We all have a pair of goofy tube socks stuffed in a drawer somewhere.
Perhaps we were given those socks as a reminder. Now that I've told you about them, you'll remember too. So when you hold us accountable to show compassion, please do so in equal measure. Require it of us. Give it in return. Upon such a foundation we can build a community.
No, I will not be wearing those socks. But rest assured, I have them in a drawer at home.
Sgt. Peter DeVries, North Vancouver RCMP