“That Hat is HUGE!” Becoming a Police Officer

I remember the first time I put on the full uniform.  I stood in front of the full length mirror and started to snicker. I just couldn’t comprehend that the reflection, in THAT uniform in the mirror, was me!

handcuffs
Neon bracelets with a key.

When I came out to see Sue, she laughed. Like hard belly splitting laughter.  Through her chuckles, I did hear her say, “You look like an usher,” and “That hat is HUGE!” So much for that authoritative look lol!

Becoming a police officer was quite an ordeal. You see, I didn’t like police officers. I thought most were like Neanderthals and quite barbaric. I have had many dealing with police throughout my life, especially in the capacity of my work. In fact, I had tried to work with some Sergeants at 53 division to see if I could get their officers to behave somewhat human when they came to the group home I was working in. I was told it was a slow process and they couldn’t promise anything. That was before the days of OIPRD with a complaint procedure for incivility.

It took me awhile to prepare mentally for this. I remember, there were people whom I had to check their reaction to see if it ‘would be okay’ and what they thought about it. The first was my best friend, who was very anti-cop. She absolutely thought it was a good idea and thought I’d make a good cop. Given her opinion of police, I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment or not! The other was my brother. As we do in our family, we methodically went over the pros and cons of the job. Pension, check. Schooling on the job, check. Benefits, check. Use a gun …errr… I’m anti-gun ….. err… have some work to do. Hence the time needed to evaluate if indeed I was able and willing to take on everything about the job.

I received the call five hours after submitting my resume. They wanted me to start the process. That was in July and it became a whirlwind after that. I made the December class and off I went to The Toronto Police College and then to The Ontario Police College.  As an older cadet, that of 43 years old, I wasn’t quite the oldest, but I was close. The job was extremely physically demanding. I spent Monday to Friday at the college, would drive home Friday, arriving around 8:00 – 9:00 pm. I would spend all day Sunday studying until leaving for the college around diner time to arrive just before bedtime. Besides the curriculum and physical fitness being very demanding, I found being away from my family for four months very difficult. I had a mother in my dormitory with an infant son. She was from the OPP and unable to leave over the weekend because it was just too far to travel. She cried a lot a night.  For some, it was a very hard experience. Here was a typical day at the college for me:

5:00 am – up and out for a run 5-8km
6:00 am – shower
7:00 am – Drill practice*
8:00 am – breakfast
8:30 – 4:00 pm – classes – one class each day from 45 – 90 minutes all exercise
– I was class leader which entailed extra duties*
4:30 – 5:30 pm – create study notes
5:30 – 6:30 pm – dinner
7:00 pm – Intramural floor ball hockey*
8:00 pm – study and/or teaching in a study group*
9:30 pm – bed
* extra curricular activities I participated in that was not mandatory

All cadets-in-training throughout all Ontario must go to this college to train. I seemed to be an anomaly. First, I was older than most of the cadets. I was vegan. I was lesbian and out. I was in a long term relationship of 20 years.  For many of those in my class, they believed I was the first openly gay person they were in contact with. They were curious, had questions and felt safe enough with me to ask. They were especially taken a-back by the longevity of my relationship. Most had endured divorce through their parents and couldn’t believe someone could be together that long, almost as long as some had been alive lol!

There was no question that I would do this and be successful. You see, I had quit my job, my career. This was my future and I had to grasp it with 100% focus. That singleness of purpose helped me organize my life to support everything to help me through this and to my new career. I gave up email and the internet, and that was no small feat! I just didn’t have time in the day to look, never-mind, respond to email. I gave up sponsees. They are persons in AA whom you commit to working with to help them through the steps and to learn to cope with living a sober life. They are instrumental to helping the sponser themselves stay sober, work their own program and stay sane. I said goodbye. Sue took up the management of the house including the finances. All I had to do during this time, which was about six months in total, was show up, work hard and study, study, study. I learned how to organize my entire life around one single purpose through AA at a young age. It served me well in preparing to be an officer. Too bad I never wanted to be rich and famous lol ….

But it is this same focus, that helped me become a photographer, and pretty quickly. This story will be in a future post.

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