Old Red Jacket Talker

Just an old RCMP dispatcher’s ramblings . . .

Feelings Rush Back In

The other day I received an email from a long lost friend who I worked with in North Battleford at ‘Telecomns’ when I first joined the RCMP in 1975. I worked along side Scott for a couple of years when he decided that he wanted to become a Regular Member. A few months later he was off to the ‘Swinging Arm Ranch’ in Regina, Saskatchewan for his training.

After training, Scott was posted to a small Detachment in central Alberta. Then after a few more years and a few more transfers he resigned and went to work up in the Fort McMurray area. Long and short of it, he was doing a search for some of his co-workers from his North Battleford days and found my name and sent along an e-mail.

Of course he wanted to know what had transpired in the ensuing almost 30 years. I filled him in to the best of my knowledge of where the ‘old crew’ was living and what they were doing now. Scott was originally from the Prince Albert district, so of course he asked if I knew where some of the people from the Telecomns in PA ended up as well. Once again I wrote back with what I knew of the happenings to some of the operators from up XJA-91 country.

As I was thinking of the previous PA folks, I of course remembered Butch who made the transfer to Regina with the rest of us in 1996. He had been the Supervisor in PA and on his move to Regina eventually became the DOCC supervisor in Regina. His job certainly was not an enjoyable one in that he was trying to integrate 6 previous Telecomns centers and their staff along with a bunch of rookie operators into one amalgamated center. Some of his directions and thoughts were not well liked by the membership of C/Ms. Then some of his directives were not really liked by the R/Ms out in the field either. So in essence Butch was sitting out in the middle between the field units and the working staff in the OCC.

Butch felt that I had some excellent working traits and sort of took me under his wing in an attempt to guide me along as an upcoming supervisor. I would dare say he was my main mentor in where I was going and where I eventually ended up. That is not to say I agreed with everything he said or did. However, one difference from myself and a few of the other folks in the newly amalgamated center was I at least would tell Butch face to face on what I didn’t agree with and how I felt we could achieve the same result in another way. Let me tell you there was a heap of ‘back stabbing’ that went on during those early years in the DOCC.

Butch guided us through some fairly hard times, and it appeared we were starting to get ‘our act together’ as a Unit. Sadly, Butch was still out on his own. Not really one of the C/Ms and not recognized as a Commander of a 50+ unit membership of the RCMP. I’m sure that weighed heavily on him and a bit later we all found out how much so.

I can still remember working day shift one weekend. We had a full staff complement along with about a dozen cadets in for their ‘Orientation’ into an OCC. This was where the cadets sat in and listened in with the Complaint Takers and then with the Dispatcher as they handled the traffic from the public and field units. Along about 2:00 pm I saw the Sgt from Regina Detachment entering the office. I remembered thinking it was strange to see the Sgt from the Detachment in the office on the day. He worked a Monday to Friday shift and it just seemed strange that he was in the office at the time. I checked with the Dispatch zone for Regina to see if anything was happening and found nothing out of the ordinary. Then the Sgt asked me to follow him to his office as he wanted to speak with me. Now I was really perplexed, but away I went.

The Sgt didn’t beat around the bush at all. He point blank told me that Butch had taken his own life just shortly before and he was deceased. WHAT! was my first thought. I had handled and talked to many suicide subjects throughout my career as most OCC operators have. I’m happy to say that most subjects ended up getting help prior to their committing the final act.  I do remember one fellow that talked to me for quite awhile (while I was getting help to his location) and then he just abruptly said goodbye.  I next heard a loud gun shot in the phone.  Sadly this young fellow just couldn’t see his way through to get more help and committed the ultimate act. 

But back to my story . . .

With a few more details, I was heading back to the DOCC to break it to my staff. Some of the people working on my Watch that day had worked with Butch for close to 20+ years, so I knew this wasn’t going to be an easy task. On my arrival back I made a few calls to some of the other Supervisors to appraise them of what transpired and to come in and help. Then I advised all the Cadets that their training was over for the day and if they would kindly depart.

All the staff wondered what the hell was going on and figured something major was happening. When the cadets departed I explained the fact that our boss had committed suicide in the most delicate way I could. Remember these people are used to sudden deaths due to the nature of their occupations and many had handled suicides in their past, but this was hitting very close to home for them. There definitely were some tears and some hugs in the next few minutes.

The worst part was that there were no reliefs to come in and take over for these people. The only other people that could stand in for relief were also going to be grief stricken. The end result was that for the next 5 hours (give or take), the great operators of DOCC Saskatchewan went back to their work positions and answered the incoming 911 calls and other sundry calls from the general public and also answered the incoming radio calls from the members in the field with a professionalism that was second to none. The incoming Watch at 6:30 pm were briefed prior to their actual turnover and were faced with the same fate though they had 12 hours to sit and grieve before their shift was over.

Let me tell you, the suicide of our ‘Boss’ caused all of us to look at our lives a little closer and to also treat our fellow workers with a bit more humility and respect for the next while. We were acting like a cohesive unit finally. Everyone was trying to help the other and get our jobs done to the best of our abilities.  Butch would have been pleased.

Sadly, after not quite a month, the back stabbing and other crap that was the norm prior to the death was back. In actuality it was probably worse because the incoming ‘In Charge’ was not quite the strong person that Butch was and allowed some of it to get out of hand in my estimation.

Anyhow, as I was recalling this information and relaying some of it to my long lost friend and former co-worker Scott, all the suppressed feelings came rushing back. Feelings that I thought I had gotten over many years ago sure floated to the forefront once again. Definitely not feelings I like to have during the Christmas season.

As I walk my paper route in the mornings I run scenarios through my mind and try to make some sense of it all. Sadly, just as when the suicide happened, I don’t have any great insight in why or how come or what we (I) could have done to help our co-worker and friend get through his troubled times.

I guess I’ll just have to remember my friend and what was and get on with life just like all in DOCC did when we lost our ‘Leader’ those few short years ago.

Rest in Peace Butch

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December 20, 2007 - Posted by | RCMP

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