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After the Force

After the Force: True Cases and Investigations by Law Enforcement Officers Release date, October 25, 2021 | Book 8 in Durvile’s True Cases series --- Introduction "Suai Tiger" by Detective Debbie J. Doyle (ret)

After the Force is a collection of chapters written by retired law-enforcement women and men who have come together to share their stories about defining moments of their careers, events that have affected them throughout their lives and into retirement. In recent years, many police agencies and officers in Canada, the US, and internationally have come under fire for unprofessional or unethical policing methods. This collection clearly displays another side to law enforcement; the human side.

This is the eighth book in the Durvile True Cases series with the majority of the first seven books featuring stories by and about lawyers, judges, and criminal justice. These previous books in the series were written after the incidents occurred and not from eye-witness accounts. After the Force is unique and intriguing in that stories are told from the perspective of first contact at crime scenes as observed by Canadian police officers who have served in municipal, provincial, and federal police services.

When I contacted the various retired officers, I wanted to ensure their stories were represented from across the country. These contributors served in small towns, remote areas and large cities, all having unique yet similar law-enforcement and retirement experiences. Among the themes presented were stories about prostitution and sex work, a child serial killer, an encounter with a cop killer, migrant workers’ children targeted by a sexual predator, police suicides, a child miraculously surviving a fall from a high-rise balcony, the genocide in Rwanda, an officer dealing with a partner who was experiencing severe PTSD, a suicide from a bridge, and child sexual assaults. Most of these stories culminate with descriptions of second careers and new-found activities that have arisen in many of these officers’ lives after retiring from police work, such as writing, painting, assisting Indigenous communities, and facilitating community improvement.

Canadian Peacekeeping
Canadian law enforcement officers are some of the finest in the world. There are substantial differences between Canadian police officers and their counterparts in other countries, including our neighbours south of the 49th parallel. For example, we have in-depth screening and polygraph examinations as part of our hiring practices, and those who shouldn’t serve are either not hired, or no longer serve. Police officers should not be feared, but respected by the communities they serve.

From having worked with officers from over forty different countries during my tours of duty in East Timor, I have first-hand knowledge about the respect the world has for Canadian police officers. In 2002, I was seconded by the United Nations to serve on a peacekeeping mission in East Timor, an island country in Southeast Asia, due north of Australia (also known as Timor-Leste). While serving two tours of duty on the island, I saw time and again that people in charge of specialized units sought Canadian police officers with whom to work. The fundamental political and human rights guaranteed in The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is something people from many other countries can only dream about. Many countries limit or ban the freedom of religion, expression, and peaceful assembly. Freedom of the press and media is something, as Canadians, we take for granted. On many occasions, I spoke to the Timorese police and police officers from around the world about the legal rights set out in the Charter. I led by example, explaining that in a democratic country, police cannot arbitrarily stop individuals, cannot punish or torture people who are under arrest, and must remind people that they have a right to legal counsel.

The best way to explain the differences between Canada and East Timor is to imagine stepping into a page of a National Geographic magazine that showcases a tribe of people who live in the jungle. Few people own vehicles. Walking or bicycling is the norm. Power is only found in the larger cities. Running water comes from a communal tap that families walk hours to and from on a daily basis. Heat? No furnace required. I have a photograph of a thermometer that displays 58.5 degrees C (137.3 degree F!). And bugs. Who knew cockroaches grew to be three inches long and could fly?! The first time I witnessed this, I saw a roach walking on the ground, until it decided to fly—at me! I’m sure the villagers thought I was being attacked by a saltwater crocodile—not my most glamourous get-away.

In East Timor, villagers would routinely walk for hours to towns to report crimes at the police stations sprinkled around the island. When stationed in the town of Suai, I remember one incident in which a woman, Mrs. Ximenes, was the victim of domestic violence. She had walked to the police station to report an assault perpetrated on her by her husband—simply because his meal wasn’t ready when he returned from working in the rice paddies. We initiated an investigation, obtained the evidence we required, and called the court in the capital city of Dili to determine when we could bring Mr. Ximenes before a judge. We drove Mrs. Ximenes back to her residence and informed her we would pick her up the following morning at seven. We told her we would drive her to Dili where she would testify and we would bring her back to Suai, if required.
After dealing with Mrs. Ximenes, we arrested her husband, took him to the police station and put him in jail overnight. In the morning, we picked up Mrs. Ximenes, put Mr. Ximenes in the vehicle with her, along with a translator and the Timorese police officers in charge of the investigation. To say the vehicle was crowded is an understatement.

The five-hour journey on partially paved roads, dirt trails, and goat paths required a stop for lunch. After I had given the Timorese police officers money to purchase food for everyone, we parked at the side of the dirt road, everyone climbed out of the vehicle and we ate while we talked. I had begun to learn Indonesian Bahasa when I first arrived and had a working knowledge of the language after several months (although when I spoke the Timorese would smile, probably thinking I sounded like a six-year-old).

Upon arriving in Dili, we went straight to court. The accused, Mr. Ximenes, the complainant Mrs. Ximenes, and the police officers all testified before a panel of three judges. Court proceedings with Mr. and Mrs. Ximenes proceeded pretty much as usual. More often than not in these cases of domestic violence, the accused is convicted but released back to live with the complainant, as was the case with the Ximenes. In court, both spouses signed a document similar to a cross between a Recognizance and a Peace Bond. A Recognizance is a form of release when an individual is charged with a crime, whereby the individual agrees to abide by all of the conditions as set out in the Recognizance. The most common conditions in a domestic violence case are to keep the peace and be of good behaviour and not to assault their spouse. A Peace Bond is a court order issued against an individual who has not yet committed a criminal offence, but an offence is likely to occur. In this case, if the accused does not assault his wife again within the year, he receives no punishment.

While Mr. and Mrs. Ximenes found places to stay with friends of friends or relatives, I spent my evening re-supplying food and much-desired beverages for myself and the officers I lived with. After all, on occasion, I too became thirsty. We only went to Dili once a month, so the time I was there needed to be put to good use. My husband Dan, who was stationed in another town on the island, took his re-supply the same day I went to Dili with the Ximenes, so we met at Obrigado Barracks, a Portuguese military base. There, I ordered a large chocolate milkshake and my husband, an ice-cold beer.

In Suai, we only had a generator—which we only used for a few hours every second evening—so I never purchased food that needed to be refrigerated. Therefore, in Dili, we ordered steaks—needless to say, they weren’t Alberta beef, but the Australian beef substitute reminded us of home. Within four hours of eating, the milkshake would always exact its revenge on me—but it was worth it. With no power, milk was no longer a staple but instead something I had once a month, and as much as I still love milk, it no longer loves me back. We rented a room for the evening and I had friends joke with me about having a monthly “conjugal jungle visit” with my husband. Not that seeing my husband wasn’t the highlight of the stay in Dili, but I sure did enjoy the air-conditioned room!

We all met up again the following morning at seven for the return journey, as planned. After we drove Mr. and Mrs. Ximenes to their house, we ensured Mr. Ximenes understood the conditions of his release. We informed Mrs. Ximenes if Mr. Ximenes didn’t abide by the conditions, she could return to the police station to file a report and we would arrest Mr. Ximenes and return him to Dili to face the judges. I cannot say Mr. Ximenes never assaulted his wife again, but when we checked in on the family, no further issues arose.

One Timorese police officer asked why I didn’t physically punish Mr. Ximenes. He had witnessed the Indonesian military perpetrating physical abuse on civilians. I explained that in a democratic republic—which East Timor had become with the United Nations’ assistance—people should never be afraid of the police. It is the people who give the police power to ensure society is kept safe. I pointed out police aren’t judges and therefore could not and should not punish anyone. Then I posed a question to him. “Who would benefit if I assaulted Mr. Ximenes? Mr. Ximenes? Mrs. Ximenes? Me? The community?” Unfortunately, the Timorese people had submitted to the abusive and corrupt behaviour perpetrated by Indonesian military, when under their control.

Canadian police officers are renowned for treating everyone equally, and I consistently promote that reputation. When off duty in East Timor, I associated with many of the police from other nations as well as the Timorese police. On Sundays after work, we’d go to the beach and swim in the ocean under guard of the New Zealand military who would ensure the saltwater crocodiles didn’t have their own special Sunday feast. I have a large tattoo of a tiger’s head on my back and when I wore my bathing suit, it was visible for all to behold; hence my nickname of Suai Tiger.
After returning to Canada from East Timor, I was promoted to the Child Protection Section at the Edmonton Police Service. After 25 years of service, I retired and began writing books. Then, in March 2019, pre-Covid, pre-masks, and pre-social distancing, Lorene Shyba and I were introduced to each other by author Richard Van Camp. After several conversations, Lorene proposed the idea of a book involving retired police officers, the impact that police work had on them, and how their experiences allowed them to flourish in their lives after policing. I found the idea compelling and agreed to contact officers from across the country and solicit chapters for this project.

Managing the Trauma from Police Work
God give me the serenity to accept things which cannot be change; Give me courage to change things which must be changed; And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other. —Dr. Reinhold Niebuhr
Many police officers have sayings they use in their emails or correspondence, or abide by. The “Serenity Prayer,” although used for addictions, is also used by police. There are so many things in police work that cannot be changed and to differentiate between them can be a complex and heart-breaking experience. Things that can and have been changed are shown in many of the stories in this book. In the evening of one’s career, one can distinguish the difference. Wisdom comes with time and if we all stand together, civilians and police officers and look toward the horizon, we can find solutions to many of the problems that plague our society.

When I began connecting with fellow officers about the book, the majority of whom I didn’t know, the conversations reminded me of chats I’d had with former partners and members of my squads. Regardless of where we had served, the camaraderie in our profession enabled us to easily relate to one another. We spoke about our careers, comical circumstances that had occurred to us, and the difficulties we had experienced. None of us regretted our policing career, even though we dealt with physical and psychological injuries from our chosen line of work. Each of us loved our careers because we joined the police to help others, often with our own self-interests taking a back seat to those of society.

Canadian policing is universal in the sense that police officers deal with similar calls, investigations and difficulties. Not all of the officers I contacted contributed. After speaking with them, a couple of the officers realized they couldn’t write about the investigations that changed their lives because they still struggled with their demons.

Several of the officers who contributed to this book suffer from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on a daily basis, albeit some far worse than others. PTSD is not something to be ashamed of because it is a common hazard of policing. While engaging in phone and email conversations over several months, I determined that each of us has worked, volunteered, or engaged in hobbies as a way to manage the trauma from police work.

This book is an attempt to share the human side of police work and provide insight into the difficulties they face, not only in their own lives but also in the lives of members of society—often at the same time. Police officers engage with thousands, if not tens of thousands of individuals throughout their careers. These interactions range from stopping a vehicle for speeding, to dealing with a victim of spousal violence, to arresting an individual for the brutal rape and murder of a child. Each interaction with a member of the public impacts the officer, whether it is a positive or a negative experience.

Unlike other professions, police are called when bad things happen, whether there is a criminal act or a death. When a police officer attends a sudden death or makes a death notification, it affects them. Deeply. They may not cry on the outside, but they do weep on the inside. When sitting with a family member and listening to stories about the child or spouse who died in a vehicle collision, the officer experiences collateral trauma. Certain units within police services, including Child Abuse, ICE, and Crime Scene Investigations are considered “high risk” units in which officers experience high levels of collateral trauma.

These experiences shape and mold us. Many of us have plans for retirement, while others are lost, wandering in the wilderness without direction. Some officers leave their police service on a Friday only to join another police-related organization on Monday. For a variety of reasons, those officers want to leave their job but aren’t ready to leave the general profession. Others leave, never turning back or talking about their service, engaging in a completely different line of work. Some don’t work at all; they may volunteer or help others in different ways.

This book showcases individuals from across the country. There are common ties among the stories because there are common ties among all police officers. I hope everyone reading this book realizes police are people, merely human, and without super-powers. We have dealt with adversity in our lives, we have made mistakes, and now we are all dealing with the effects of a career in police work, each in our own unique way. We all wanted to help people and still want to help by providing insight into these cases and into our lives and the way we have coped with our profession. We hope the sharing of our stories will bring readers an added perspective for a clearer understanding of our victories and travesties, both during and after the force


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My Time Undercover on the Granville Strip
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Vancouver, January 1983

I pull the heavy door open and see them for the first time, sitting with their backs against the wall, exactly where I was told they would be. They throw a short glance at me as I walk past them to a table near the bar. I order two drafts. I am nervous as hell, but I have worked for weeks to prepare for this, poking needles into the veins of my arms, and building a story to go with it. And it finally has meaning.

It will take time before I get anywhere close to them, so I take a sip of the cold beer, and try to decide who is dirty. Rick Crowley is sitting alone and, like the other hypes, no longer pays attention to me. I can’t really tell if he or the others are dealing, but it really doesn’t matter because I’m not going to score heroin tonight. I’m here for the long run, and I only want to be seen, get a feel for the place, and give them an idea of who I am before I become a threat to them. It also feels good just to see their faces.

In his late twenties, Crowley is the youngest. His ice-blue eyes are wide open and dart toward any movement, like the eyes of a cat. I know that he is violent and sneaky. I also know that Captain Kangaroo, sitting alone at the next table, has over forty years of criminal record under his belt; that Kitty Baker, chatting with a group of as yet nameless hypes, is streetwise and has been around for a while; and that Cindy, her small frame hopping from table to table, is violent. There are a few stories of knifings for fifty bucks and of undercover officers being beaten up. Everybody’s record says they know the game: robbery, drug trafficking, theft, fraud, and violence all centred on heroin trafficking. To a cop, it’s a world to dive into where the line between good and bad is as clear as the surface of a dead pool of water. No ambiguity. They hate you for what you represent and you hate them for what they are. The Granville Strip is full of people who would rob and kill for fifty bucks, and finding myself in this greasy hole, inside the big pulsating city, makes me feel good and scared.

I watch everything they do, how they sit, and how they talk to each other. It isn’t enough to understand them. I want to be like them because this is going to be my home for the next couple of months. It has been two years since my last operation, two years of shirt and tie work in an office full of cops, and I know that it will take me a while to feel like I belong.

The heroin users stare nonchalantly at the scene in front of them. They don’t pay attention to each other except for a few words here and there. Each has a glass of beer on the table. The beer has lost its foam, but it allows them to stick around for a while.

For my first day in the Blackstone we picked Welfare Wednesday, the day people get their welfare cheques, and the place is filling quickly. Bartenders in white shirts work behind large jars of pickled sausages and eggs, to pour draft beer from frosty taps into trays of empty glasses. The music is getting loud and the crowd louder, as waiters begin to hustle briskly from tables to bar and then back to tables. Ninety-five cents a draft, and when a buck is given, they keep the nickel.

An ashtray sits on Crowley’s table and he taps his cigarette against it. I walk by his table to go to the pay phone and he looks at me square. I’m the intruder and this is his place, but I know who he is, and he doesn’t know me. That counts for something.

Picking up the receiver, I take a deep breath and begin to relax. I look around me and let it all soak in.

People come in through the front doors and from the alley through the back door, some of them after smoking a joint. All over the bar, small round tables are covered in red terry cloth to soak up the spilled beer, the same terry cloth I have seen in every bar of every small town I have been in, working undercover from Kamloops to Fort St. John. Months of work going from small town to small town, from lumber towns nested in thick forests amid the dark Pacific mountains, to the dusty towns of the cold plains of the northern interior, with their pumpjacks looking like strange, dark birds stubbornly stabbing the ground. There is toughness about the people in these bars. Not the kind of superficial and rehearsed toughness you see in fist fights, but a higher level of self-sufficiency. You have a feeling that they do not rely on their town to keep them going, but that they are what keeps the town alive. Vancouver is different. Like most big cities, people come to it because they want a piece of it.

At the far end, near the small dancing area, you must climb a few steps to get to the pool tables. A few people sit, sipping their beer while waiting for their turn to play. As in most bars, the patrons surrounding the pool tables keep their attention on the game as they await their turn, their quarters lining up on one of the edges of the tables. Playing pool is always a good way to get into a bar crowd. I like the game and, being a little shy, I often use it to get into the local scene. Nothing like sinking the eight ball, taking a sip of beer, and then waiting for the next in line to come and play. And when you lose, you sit and talk, and it goes on from there. I am tempted to go over and lay a quarter on the table, but it would take me too far away from the heroin dealers, so I decide to go at it cold somewhere else.

In the middle of the floor, thick cigarette smoke rises above a number of tables pulled together to accommodate a large group. Partiers who appear to know each other well, couples coming down to the Blackstone to blow off some steam, hear the music, and have some beers. They don’t interact with anyone else so I’ll probably not see them again. I figure it best to stay away from the centre of the room. I need regulars, people who will remember me, and with whom I can connect tomorrow or the next day. Regulars usually have a favourite table in a corner of the bar. They don’t hang out somewhere in the middle. I look at the older couple sitting at a table next to mine. I didn’t think much about them when I came in and they don’t seem to have anything to do with the heroin dealers, but they are having a good time, and they seem to know a few of the regulars.

Looks to me like a good place to start.

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