Reader recalls her father’s character as a police officer

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 21, 2015

“If Life is a web ... there are spiders in the web.” —Kathleen Adamson

Police officers who risk their lives every day to protect ours have been having a pretty rough ride lately.

One of our coffee companions is quite passionate about this. She responded to last week’s column with praise for her late father, a dedicated police officer. Before getting to her email, however, first another response.

In that column I wrote about John Reilly’s upcoming talk in Cochrane on his latest book, Bad Judgment: The Myths of First Nations Equality and Judicial Independence in Canada (6:30 p.m., May 26, Nan Boothby Library).

I referred to the views of the retired provincial court judge for Banff-Canmore-Cochrane on restorative vs. retributive justice – on the importance of healing offenders and not just punishing them, for the sake of the Web of Life as a whole.

Lori Craig, former Human Resources Director for the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, and prior to that, a police officer – and, by the way, co-author with me of a book under way on fanning the fading embers of each other’s spirits – responded:

“Did I ever tell you that it was Judge Reilly who swore me in as a Calgary police officer? Here’s an excerpt from your 2008 column about him. It is a quote from his retirement event: ‘We will not solve problems of today by the same mindset that got us into those problems. Punishment is not the best way to help people change. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working very well. . . . Fan the goodness in a person rather than punish the badness out.’”

But there are limits to such restorative optimism, says Kathleen Adamson.

Kathleen, a resident of our Bow Valley for many years with a special fondness for things Cochrane, was completing her doctorate at the University of Calgary at the same time I was back in the mid-1980s. She and her husband Tim and my wife Mary Anna and I became fast friends. And even though they’ve retired to Ontario, they continue to join us at our coffee table every week by email.

“We can agree with Judge Reilly that we are all part of the Web of Life,” she writes. “You know what my opinions are on the shameful way the native peoples have been treated.

“Turning to crime, however, and coming from a police family as I do, I have a different view of crime, especially vicious crime. If life is a web, you have to admit, there are spiders in the web and in my opinion, there are human spiders, ruthless, trap-laying and repetitive in pattern.

“Some people choose evil. These are not one-off accidental choices in many cases: they choose to behave this way over and over in large and small ways simply because that is what they wish to do and it is sort of a ‘will to power.’”

Kathleen’s father, Robert Beatty, was a corporal with the Ontario Provincial Police. She recalls vividly one episode from her father’s service years ago.

“There was a fellow who committed a murder up near Sault Ste Marie: it was the wife of a friend. The family had helped him out, fed him, cared for him for many months. He shot the woman several times and blew the six-month-old baby out of the highchair and over most of the kitchen, then ran away.”

“Dad and another policeman went deep into the wilderness after him. They tracked him on foot for three or four days, and came upon him ensconced behind a large rock pile, with his weapon trained on dad’s head. Dad had to walk up to him, talk him out of it, inch by inch, and finally reach out and take the weapon, which had already killed two innocents.

“Dad brought him in with fair treatment, and stayed with him on death row and was right with him at the hanging, at the murderer’s request. The night before he was to hang, he said to dad: ‘It is a good thing they are going to hang me tomorrow because I would only go out and do it again.’

“Of course there are bad cops (and doctors, teachers, priests and shoe salesmen). But how many people are prepared daily to go out there on the street at such great personal risk? Not many.

“I used to marvel that my dad would do this job. I used to ask him when he was bringing some of these malefactors in, especially if they had just killed a child, how he could manage not to have his gun go off ‘accidentally’ in their brain? He always said, ‘I am not their judge, Kathleen. Only God is their Judge. I just make sure they come safely into custody. But if I had to, I would indeed shoot them to save a life, otherwise treat them as I would want to be treated.’”

Thanks, Kathleen, for this insight into your police-officer father’s life and values.

There’s another area that Kathleen is deeply troubled about at the moment: the activities of ISIS in the Middle East. As an archaeologist, much of her own life work and that of her associates has been bulldozed, blown up and obliterated from the human record by ISIS in the past months.

I’ll be returning to Kathleen’s views on that in next week’s column. Stay tuned.


© 2015 Warren Harbeck

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