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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Ranks of the Force : Corporals

Ranks of the Force : Corporals

Memories come best when one is tired. I'm tired. I'm thinking about Corporals.

One of the best was Reg. #18723, Francis (Frank) Scotti presently living with his wife, Jean, near Toronto. Frank's long retired as a senior NCO -- in summers, he and Jean essentially live on their boat. Cruising.

Not long ago, they dropped in for a visit and stayed for dinner. Frank thinks my wife is an excellent cook. Who's gonna argue with your 'ole Corporal ?  His memory is sharp and naturally we got talkin'. Wives half listen.

Frank recalled this one. I was on highway patrol far east of Haney, BC (now Maple Ridge)  -- near the Maple Ridge/Mission border. It was 1967. Radio said a woman in a farmhouse thought her husband was dead. Squawk asked; 'Constable Healy, would you slip by and have a see?' 'No problem, I'm in the hood'.

I met the woman. It was an isolated farm. Naturally, she was in a panic; alone, no ambulance, no family, didn't know what to do. She was shouting, scared, come get the drift. You've been there.

I sprinted upstairs and he was in bed. I joined him. Warm but no signs. I had a bad feeling. Woman was beside me; alone, lonely, panic, shouting, desperate. Tears by the ton. 'Do something, he's gonna die'! I just couldn't tell her -- no way. Gonna leave that to my Corporal. I started AR. She watched. Hopeful.

I knew AR wouldn't work with certain classes of people. For instance, the dead. I'm no doctor, but I know First Aid. I also knew what I was doing -- given the circumstances. In my day, at 'Depot' we were told horses would hold us in good stead. Now I'm thinking I love horses. Think horses.

With AR you gotta count seconds. Right? I'm counted them for the Corporal. It's too late for my bed partner. I know dead. It wasn't long, but it seemed like a day. I was puffin' AR. Finally, Corporal Scotti joined us. He spots me on the bed then takes the woman to a nearby room. She knew. She could read my Corporal's eyes. And touch. He broke the news.

Now he came back to me. His eyesight is 20/20. 'Stop Joe, he's dead.' 'Yeah Corp, I know.' Dead is sad. I asked, 'how's she doing?'

I've always, always said it. All you need is a good Corporal. What made Corporal Scotti special on Detachment? He knew people well. He could size'em up. He also knew his men. He had spent years in the north -- life there makes one fuse closer to people than in urban police settings.

Corporal Scotti was all police officer. Pretty special to me. He was also a trainer. I listened. He'd say: 'It's not us versus what you can.' Solid advice in policing, eh?

Some Officers have problems. Read history. Steele refused his commission for the sole purpose to learn from his men. To be with his men. Officers can learn from Steele. And from Scotti too. The former rode in the saddle, the latter rode the streets. Neither at a desk. OK, you know where I'm going with this.

Inevitably, the question for those who select Officers comes down to one: 'In real life, was he or she effective as a Corporal?'

Building a strong case for a good Corporal is not too difficult -- Corporal Scotti's in that boat. That's the way it is with my 'ole friend.
If you're wondering, former Senior NCO and my good friend Frank Scotti is the good lookin' guy on the right.

Photo taken at the Boat Club, Ottawa.

'Maintain Our Memories'

J. J. Healy

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