Perceptions can often become our reality.

First Responders.

Love them. Hate them. Totally indifferent about them.

Overpaid taxpayer burden. Underpaid and overworked.

Lazy. Donut eaters. Protectors. Hulking specimens.

Over zealous tax collectors writing speeding tickets on our highways.

“I wouldn’t do that job for a million dollars.”

A Hero who just saved a family and their pet from a house fire. Transported your loved one to the hospital with serious injuries following a motor vehicle accident. Arrested a person defrauding your elderly grandparent of their life savings with a phone scam. Just secured the cell door behind you as you enter a correctional facility to serve a sentence for impaired operation of a motor vehicle causing injury to another person, A 911 communicator spending their entire shift dealing with traumatic events unfolding while at the same time trying to be pleasant to the next person who calls to complain about a noisy stereo.

First Responders: A Necessary Evil?

These are just a small list of the daily activities involving a few first responder duties that go on everyday without a second thought from the public.

However, every time there is an election, especially during municipal elections, there is much debate about the percentage of each tax dollar that goes towards funding our first responder organizations. Many perceptions often arise about the “bang we are getting for our tax dollars”.  Questions are asked why are we paying these people so much. Politicians promise to lower taxes by streamlining first responder organizations by doing ‘more with less’. The media is filled with stories of traumatic events without much compassion for those who have had such exposures.

Constantly under attack for a variety of other occupational reasons, such as a police shooting or a tax burden to the family income, this can often build walls between the first responders and the community they are sworn to protect and serve.  Never quite loved or appreciated by the general public due to many misperceptions about the job and daily duties of first responders. This can extract a heavy toll on the mental and physical health of our first responders.

Then a new tragedy strikes a community across the country. It could be anywhere, such as Toronto, Halifax, Humboldt, Winnipeg, St. John’s, Calgary, Vancouver and many places in between. There can be a backlash from the community asking where were the first responders and why did it take so long for them to respond to the situation. There can be a sense of pride in our first responders as they disarm a potentially violent incident that is broadcasted to the World for all to see. However, many times, this pride can be fleeting as the next day and the next day after that arrive with new challenges in life.

A few days later our perceptions can quickly change again as to what a first responder did or did not do correctly regarding an incident. Because, as we know, every traumatic or serious life threatening call can be safely diffused from the comfort of our lazy boy chair while watching the 6:00 pm news or a social media clip regarding what happened around the planet today.

Unfortunately, the majority of the public really don’t understand the job of a first responder. Generally, if they think about the job that they see or hear about in the media or in a movie, they say something like, “I could never do your job”. And really, why should they know what all the job entails – since they have never done the job. No one really can appreciate the job of another until they have walked that path and have demonstrated the necessary knowledge, skills and ability to perform the duties in a competent and fair manner.

First responders are trained professionals doing their work for the greater good of everyone they chose to serve upon entering their respective careers. Sometimes, a simple “thank you for your service” can go a long way to building a relationship with the First Responder and their community that they serve each and everyday.

Have you thanked a First Responder today?

Don’t be shy. All it costs is a simple “thank you for what you do”. But the emotional gold it can mine is truly amazing to everyone. A simple “thanks” can help build a healthy community relationship that invests back into the first responder with some gratitude and appreciation from the community they serve on a daily basis without question.

Try it. You might be surprised how good it makes you even feel yourself by being thankful and mindful of the service performed by others for the greater good of society so that you have a safe community within to live.

Have you thanked a First Responder today?

Its never too late to start.




About the Author: Bill Rusk, B.A., (Sgt. retired) is a retired 30-year policing veteran who has been involved in numerous serious traumatic events throughout his career with two separate police agencies. Bill has the dubious Canadian distinction of being the only modern day police officer, shot in the line of duty, where no suspect has ever been identified or charged. Bill has received numerous acknowledgements and recognition during a distinguished career. Bill has been heavily involved in police association work having served two-terms as a Director for the Police Association of Ontario (PAO) and the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation (OPMF). Bill is now the volunteer executive director for Badge of Life Canada.