By Lethbridge Herald on June 25, 2020.
A group of Lethbridge residents, mostly mothers with their children, came out to make a heartfelt show of support for local law enforcement at Lethbridge Police Service headquarters on Thursday.
About 30 people came out to give tokens of appreciation and express their appreciation for the work the police service does in the community; particularly in light of recent negativity directed toward police officers across the country due to a series of recent high-profile incidents of involving officer violence on both sides of the border.
“We are going through as a society some turbulent times right now,” said event organizer Cate Rigaux, who teaches in the Criminal Justice program at Lethbridge College and is a former RCMP officer herself, “but it is also that opportunity to look at where we have common ground and where our opinions and emotions diverge, and really listen and start coming together. I want to make sure everybody knows these police officers in southern Alberta are amazing people. They work hard. They have committed to making our communities safe, and they need to hear from us that we believe in what they are doing. The statistics tell us the vast majority of encounters they are going to have are successfully resolved without any type of violence. So it felt good to say: ‘Hey, you know what? Keep up the great work.’”
One young supporter at the event, Caleb Schaff, wanted to say special thank you to officers who have helped him in his life in various ways.
“I wanted to show other people not all cops are bad,” he said when asked why he felt it was important to come out on Thursday. “We’re cool. They’re cool. If we can speak with them, they can speak with us. Why disrespect each other when they are helping us out so much? We can help them.”
Carlin Bodnar, another young supporter at the event, said he has been a victim of bullying at time and has had other problems. He was grateful for the support he has received from members of the Lethbridge Police Service to overcome these issues.
“There was one cop who did a lot for me in my past,” he said. “He helped me out with bullies at school. He helped me out with people who didn’t like me at all. He helped me out a lot, and he helped my friends out when they got into trouble. He got them out of trouble and let them know what they were doing was wrong. Everybody disrespects cops, like they are people there to control us or to have control over us. Like we don’t have our own minds. I think it is wrong what people think of cops.”
Police Chief Scott Woods was grateful for the show of support, but also noted he understood there was work to do as police service to continue to improve policing in the community and live up to the high expectations out there.
“It is a tough time to be a police officer right now,” he acknowledged. “But we get it, and we are committed to making the changes and doing what is necessary in order to move forward through this.”
Woods said the LPS is speeding up new training techniques which will take an even stronger de-escalation approach to situations where officers are making an arrest to decrease the potential for violence in these encounters.
“We are looking at use-of-force options,” he confirmed. “One of the things we are looking at is a couple of peer programs, one is called EPIC — it is a program about ethical policing to try to get our officers in a different mindset. So if you are an officer coming in and you see some of these things that are playing out in the media to be able to intervene if things are starting to go in a different direction they shouldn’t be — to have our people come in and do what is expected of them and intervene in these situations so they don’t get out of control.”
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