Steven R. Hewitt teaches history at the University of Saskatchewan.
It is difficult to imagine a more difficult occupation in today’s
society than that of police officer. In Scarlet Tunic, a 27-year veteran
of the Mounted Police, Robert Gordon Teather, sets out to demonstrate
the complexities of the profession and the fact that police officers are
as flawed as the rest of us. He partially accomplishes his goals.
The book incorporates four weeks’ worth of events into one 12-hour
shift. Why this was done is never explained. Surely the description of
an actual 12-hour shift would have been more realistic and just as
dramatic. As is, the book is an emotional roller coaster that leaves the
reader longing for more reflection on the part of the author.
Teather only gently nudges the surface of some of the profoundly
disturbing aspects of daily policing. For example, the book strongly
suggests that many police officers relish violent acts, chiefly
committed in self-defence, almost to the point of sadism. A female
officer brandishes a severed ear, which she bit off an attacker, to
prove her toughness to occasionally sceptical male colleagues. Have
these individuals been co-opted by the dark world they police? In some
cases, the answer seems to be yes.