Very proud today to receive the U of Manitoba, DISTINGUISHED DISSERTATION AWARD; this only happens because of the mentorship and guidance of Dr. Sean Byrne, and the fantastic learning environment established in the Mauro Centre and University of Manitoba, but really could not have happened without my wonderful wife Barb by my side, and the sacrifices my family made for me to continue in this educational journey; what a wonderful acknowledgement though, for someone who returned to complete high school as an adult, and entered grad studies late in life. It’s never too late to pursue your passions…
Thrilled, honoured and humbled to be nominated and selected for the: UNIVERSITY OF MANITOBA DISTINGUISHED THESIS AWARD, to be presented this fall, and to have my thesis selected among all faculties to be nominated by the University of Manitoba for the CANADIAN DISTINGUISHED DISSERTATION AWARD by the Canadian Graduate Studies Association.
Pleased, and honoured, to participate in the student led human rights conference with Doctoral Candidate Michele Lemonius, speaking on human rights and contemporary harassment and sexual violence issues. These young minds are engaged and responsible; our future is bright. (Click for more info on the conference).
I wonder how many people know the life of a first responder, the things they are exposed to and the reality that they live with. A student in a university class on violence and conflict recently asked me, how do police officers deal with the stress of the job. I pointed out that medical staff, nurses and doctors, paramedics, fire fighters and police officers deal with people at their maddest, baddest and saddest, routinely exposed to things that are beyond the normal human experience. They see things that they don’t want to burden their family or friends with, so who do they talk to, and when do they unburden themselves?
First responders are the tip of the public service spear, first to arrive at some of society’s nastiest problems, dealing with humanity at it’s worst, they exemplify some of humankind’s best. Police and firefighters, like soldiers, must come to terms early in their career with the sacrifice they may be called upon to make at any given moment. And make no mistake, when they sign up, their spouses and families are signed up along with them. But it is important to point out that all public servants, in all their varied roles, sacrifice for their work, whether it be in public office, clerical or administrative roles, dealing with some of society’s worst problems. To me, and I think most civil servants, public service means committing to serve, putting community well-being first. First responders represent the epitome of service, literally knowing they could be called upon to make the ultimate sacrifice. But, most of their work is more of a slow burn, dealing daily with conflict, victimization and administration, two minutes of terror followed by eight hours of paperwork- as the saying goes.
They have to be stoic and professional at scenes of violence, the calm voice and steady hand for people during the worst crisis of their life––over and over again in any given tour of duty, and then never really having a chance to scream themselves; Public speaking when they are afraid, humble and uncomfortable, but the message is so important to say; Taking shit, “I pay your salary” and just smiling when people tell you their speeding ticket story; Being called a racist when you’ve dedicated your life to fighting racism; Tedious investigations and endless paperwork, so court cases don’t fail; Leaving family, no matter if it’s Christmas, an anniversary or birthday, to help other people with their crisis, managing a threat to public safety, or making sure a crime is investigated; Working and guarding the community while everyone else in the City sleeps except for criminals, drunks and cabbies; Safeguarding someone’s dignity when they are attacking yours, protecting them while they are assaulting you; Taking an eyeful of pepper spray, being tazered, and practicing self defense tactics on each other, so they you know what it would feel like if you ever have to use it on a criminal; Going into a dark building to search for intruders, knowing that a colleague recently caught a two-by-four in the face in the same scenario; Intervening in a fight when a terrified person has called for help, with the memory that you recently did the same thing and while you were putting the cuffs on him, she changed her mind and attacked you from behind; Facing a crowd in protest, allowing them to spit on you, swear at and berate you, hoping you see it coming if someone throws a rock or chemicals or a malotov cocktail from the crowd, knowing you are there for their protection; The proverbial, running towards danger when everyone else is running away.
The unsung support roles are just as stressful, the nurse’s aide who cleans up all the blood and medical supplies in the emergency room, getting ready for the next emergency while a grieving family from the previous one is still in the other room, the dispatcher who listens helplessly to the high-speed pursuit, desperate citizens calling for help, the officer voicing for backup while they are being attacked, or the firefighter down in a smoke-filled building, and the list goes on.
It is the greatest honour to have such meaningful work protecting community, the opportunity to practice pure compassion for people, even if it puts you in harms way; but folks should know it is a privilege that comes with a cost. It is a calling that cannot be described well without the term love, love of humanity, love of community and gratitude for the opportunity to serve a pure purpose in life. That is the unvarnished truth for most first responders.
Very pleased to co-author this short article for Manitoba School Counsellor Magazine with my learned and insightful friend and colleague, Sandra Hodzic, who has deep perspective and passion for refugee youth. Sandra is leading the provinces exploration of social impact bonds for better youth outcomes.
Working with great people, including new Division Commander- Bonnie Emerson, supporting our School Education Officers, Cadets, Diversity Unit, Crime Prevention, Indigenous Partnerships and Victim and Volunteer Services, as second in command of the Winnipeg Police Service Community Support Division, I am excited for the potential and looking forward to nurturing, supporting and guiding partnerships and community engagement in the coming months.
“The police are the people and the people are the police” (Sir Robert Peel, 1829).
I’ve been nominated to represent alumni on the University of Manitoba Board of Governors. I would love the opportunity, and hope you will vote for me.
Here is my BIO:
“Throughout his 35-year public-service career, Bob has remained connected with the University of Manitoba (U-of-M), achieving his PhD in Peace and Conflict Studies in 2017, and Masters in Public Administration in 2009. Widely published, Bob’s book,Canadian Policing in the 21stCentury(McGill-Queen’s Press), raised awareness around Canadian Justice issues. His PhD research amplifies the voices of survivors combatting sex slavery in Canada. Professor Sean Byrne of U-of-M, says Bob, “is an invaluable asset to Winnipeg’s peace and justice community where he is generous in sharing his pragmatic ideas regarding peace building and social change.” Bob is passionate about inspiring others’ educational fulfillment, proud of the U-of-M’s role enriching the community through research, education, and professional development. Outside of policing, Bob loves his wife and four kids, and volunteers on several non-profit Boards, working to raise awareness around social justice issues. Bob says, “I want to serve the Board of Governers to support and give back to the institution, teachers and fellow students who’ve given so much to me.”
Please take a minute to vote; make sure your interests are represented, and give me a voice on the Board to represent you.
I came down to the kitchen this morning and found our Google Home Mini embroiled in a heated debate with Siri on my cell phone, and Siri on Barb’s iPad, about the reliability of weather forecasting systems. Even our voice activated TV remote and thermostat control were weighing in.
Anyone who has ever felt a tinge of loneliness (which is most of us), knows it is not a nice feeling. It is a danger that many face, in particular as we become elderly and have less family around. Below is a segment from a radio show in Newfoundland, in which a lady describes how she practices going out of her way to connect and smile with folks, especially the elderly. It can help people and feels good to do. I believe in Canada, we are generally pretty good at being polite and engaging, and looking after each other, but this is a nice reminder that we can be compassionate and make someone feel better, and feel better ourselves, wth the simple act of a smile.
Happy New Year! Another year has passed and we all have great hopes for the future. There is no point in having regrets; they are like pulling your hand out of the passing river; the ripples have had their affect and we have all moved on. The water is constantly flowing and so are we in the river of life. What we can control is the compassion we show towards others; it will make others happy and us as well. May you all experience and give unconditional love in the coming year; we all have value and our own path in life, and each fulfil our destiny in a unique way; may you have a fulfilling and joy-filled destiny, and ignore the things that detract from it.
Policing is an important element in the spectrum of services that impact living conditions, quality of life and social justice for Aboriginal communities. The ultimate policing goal should be to contribute to the realization of societies with safe living conditions and equal access to opportunities, health and happiness. In Canada, Aboriginal peoples were marginalized by colonization, becoming victims of social injustice whose significant effects on communities are felt to this day. This article explores how trust can be regained through improved communication, community engagement and empowerment. Trust building is critical for police and communities to move forward together. Truth telling, transparency and restorative justice may allow police agencies to align with the values of Aboriginal communities, support citizen empowerment, and better carry out the public will.
With the windchill, it’s -44C (-47F) and this is the scene outside City Hall at 4AM this morning, the day before New Year’s eve. Three men huddled in a bus shack, because it is enclosed and blocks the wind. With shaking hands, one doesn’t even have gloves, they eagerly reach out as Barb and Chelsea offer them a hot bowl of soup and a coffee. Surprisingly, they are joking around, “hey could I get a foot massage, naaa” says one young man with big a smirk on his face. A sense of humour is probably the best defence against the unforgiving elements. It’s day 33 of our 4AM coffee run and it might be time to reassess, as the last couple of days we only found a few people downtown. There are still lots of people running around, but most of the regulars are missing and even the changing face of homelessness has diminished substantially. Speculating that increased holiday spirit in combination with the dangerously cold temperatures has resulted in more people either taking folks in or even the die-hard street folks seeking refuge. Winnipeg’s shelters, and the wonderful people who work at them have also taken up the slack, seemingly taking more folks in. Winnipeg’s culture of compassion and care is tangible in these conditions; humanity matters.
Some characterize the police as an oppressive arm of government, yet they are among the first ones called in almost any kind of crisis. While social justice is not their primary mandate, police officers are the ones who, day in and day out, help homeless people get in from the cold, protect people suffering debilitating substance-abuse or mental-health issues and advocate for them.
In the vast majority of cases, police officers try to do their best for people in need. This phenomenon is not unique to Winnipeg, but our history has a particular social-justice character. We are a compassionate city, perhaps because of our diversity and the deep social issues we have struggled with.
People come to Winnipeg from around the world, often from conflict zones fleeing political violence, economic hardship and oppression. We have one of the largest urban aboriginal communities in North America and one of the largest French-speaking populations outside of Quebec. We earned an international reputation as a bastion of labour rights with the 1919 General Strike. Following the Second World War, Winnipeg’s standing as a centre for human rights grew as women of all classes and ethnic backgrounds protested against rising milk and food prices. We tolerate a harsh winter climate that draws us together and nourishes our rich contributions of art, music and literature.
Winnipeg is an international centre of learning about human rights and justice. The Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice at the University of Manitoba trains master’s and doctoral students from over 30 countries for peace-building around the globe, and the University of Manitoba has several faculties, such as the Centre for Applied Ethics, focusing on human rights. Menno Simons College, Canadian Mennonite University and the Global College at the University of Winnipeg also train students for international peace-building.
It is no accident the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the first national museum established outside the Ottawa capital region, was opened in Winnipeg to serve as a beacon for human rights and social justice.
This intellectual underpinning is part of our compassionate culture. However, it is the people at street level who actually look out for vulnerable peoples’ basic human rights. It is the people who do the right thing for fellow human beings when nobody is looking that are our real protectors of human dignity. It is the business person who volunteers at a soup line and the child who stands up for a bullied peer at school. Each of us plays a part in our own unique ways, but we are all a part of our community.
The thing we know for sure is working together we are all stronger. As long as we continue to have problems in our community, we all must ask ourselves what we have done today to help make the situation better. “A little knowledge that acts is worth infinitely more than much knowledge that is idle.” (Khalil Gibran). We all know ways we can contribute, but until we act, we know we haven’t unleashed our full potential.
Staff Sgt. Bob Chrismas is in his 25th year with the Winnipeg Police Service.
Media and police professionals are bound together in interdependent, and often tense, working relationships. For different purposes both professions need to work effectively together while simultaneously retaining independence from each other. These complex inter-reliant relationships create unique challenges that often call for improvement. This essay examines whether relationships between interdependent professional organizations can be improved through a collaborative problem-solving intervention, based on the interactive methods of facilitated dialogue and appreciative inquiry. The article describes a case study of a large Canadian police agency working with local media outlets to improve their working relationship. It highlights the importance of conflict analysis followed by effective change management strategies in implementation of collaborative solutions that meet everyone’s needs. This case study illustrates dynamics that generalize to organizations that have strong organizational cultures and are highly independent and simultaneously required to work together. Some examples of such organizations are military, prison guards, scholars, medical professionals, social workers, teachers, lawyers and most government agencies.