A Story of Redemption

My past several weeks have been filled with meaningful connections with friends old and new. I have connected with readers of my book and been heartened that they understood my intentions for writing it.

I spent an amazing three weeks in October at Royal Roads University working on my Master’s of Professional Communications degree under the guidance of brilliant professors and staff and my wonderful cohort of 46 others from across Canada.

While there, I slipped away to speak at the Edmonton Literary Festival and the Vancouver Writers Festival. Both events provoked much thought and conversation in the immediate lead up to and aftermath of the Federal Election. The feeling of healing and moving forward was palpable at each event and I felt so honoured to be part of it and witness the change coming to our great country and anticipate a functional national inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.

While at the Vancouver Writers Festival, I had an experience that renewed a small bit of my pride in having been a police officer. As we were heading into the venue, a middle aged man approached me, calling my name. He introduced himself and while his name rang a bell, I asked him to remind me of how we knew each other.  He said I’d arrested him and I replied somewhat glibly that I had arrested a lot of people and he’d need to tell me more.

He only had to say “You arrested me on Marine Drive” and recognition lit my mind up like a pinball machine. I smiled at him and took in his clear eyes, overall fitness and warm smile. His adventure had been one of the few stories from my policing career I could tell my kids. We chatted about how he was doing, the book, and our lives since that day over 20 years ago.

The bank robbery call rang out over all channels and my partner Cheryl felt certain we could make it through Vancouver’s West Side in our unmarked car during midday and catch him at his requested destination of an apartment at Heather and Marine.

She drove the old Impala at breakneck speed and I recall vividly wrapping my arms around my head as we rocketed through the red at Granville and King Edward, cement truck bearing down on us out my passenger side window. I remember the whoosh as it passed behind us, missing our back end narrowly because Cheryl gunned the engine hard to outrun it.

Radio told us the cab had stopped in the parking lot of the old Husky station at the corner of 70th and Marine and we were right there. We were also told the coloured dye pack the robber had taken exploded in the car. I jumped out on foot, gun hidden under my plain clothes, terrified that he might try to rob this place, too, even if covered in coloured dye. I could see the cab, but no passenger and I scrambled around the building trying to get a view inside the convenience store.

Like a Wile. E. Coyote cartoon, I went around one side of the building and he popped out of the other, and luckily Cheryl saw him jump back in the cab. She roared up to me and I dived into the still-moving police car and we gave chase, but by then the cab was a good three quarters of a block west of us on Marine and turning north on Heather.

We saw the cab pulling over, but we were too far back in traffic to be able to arrest him before he went inside a building, so I ran up the rear lane and Cheryl took the front, where we would each hold positions until the promised ERT and dog units who were on the way would arrive.

We had occasion to talk as he was on a back balcony and I watched him from the rear lane. I won’t share that, but he was deeply troubled and knew he had no way out and I tried to help him through that. Long story short, when he was brought out of the building, he was left to Cheryl and me for interviewing and processing. He and I had a long talk. I remember him telling me about his life and how he would be doing hard time for this one.

When we met again that October 2015 day at the Writers Festival, he told me he had decided then and there on Heather Street to do his time and never go back. And he hadn’t. He got out after serving several years and stayed clean. He was proud to tell me as I signed the copy of my book he’d bought that he was writing, too. He looked great and I realized we were probably close in age, but I remember back then feeling so young and miles apart from the people I arrested who had lived so many lifetimes in so few years.

As we talked, I thought about redemption.