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by Kevin Worth


If this doesn't fit the picture in your mind of what cops do or don't do, maybe you're stereotyping. After all, cops are known for rapelling down the sides of tall buildings and crashing through windows to save hostages, and for riding motorcycles off the end of piers to land on the decks of departing ferries, arresting the bad guys before the commercial.

Most people don't have much contact with the police, yet almost everyone has a firm opinion, good or bad, about what they do or how they do it. To some extent, we all generalize about groups of people based on our contact with one or some of the group, or what we've heard from other sources.

Choose a familiar stereotype and identify the group being described. "They are all on welfare." "They are all bad drivers." "They are all drunks."

I felt the resentment of being stereotyped after Rodney King was savaged by several members of the LAPD. And again when Mark Furman's racism was uncovered at the OJ Simpson trial. These outrages provided evidence for some, and reinforcement for others, that "they" (the police) were indeed knuckle-dragging racists. The hatred that I, and my fellow officers felt and heard towards us on the streets of Victoria was real.

Walking in the anti-racism march last spring with other uniformed police officers (including the Deputy Chief), I was feeling proud of the commitment my Department was making to people of colour. Proud, that is, until I saw the placards held high by a fellow activist that said "Stop Racist Police".

Given that I am in a position of authority, a member of the mainstream, white as can be and male to boot, with means and language skills and connections, my resentment is of no consequence. When people of colour, gays and lesbians, and other margin- alized groups feel the sting of the stereotype, the ache of discrimination, and pain of racism, most have no authority, are not mainstream, have little means, and few have any connections. Throw in a language barrier too, and you've really got resentment.

It's one of the reasons I'm with Voices. Some of my police colleagues are active with other forms of outreach. Connecting. Trying to eliminate the "they".

Kevin Worth is a Staff Sgt. at Victoria Police Department, and Coordinator of the Diversity Training Programme at VPD.

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