COLUMN: Perry Bergson — March 3, 2014

Perry
Perry Bergson
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Perry Bergson

There are two sides every story.

Last week a security guard visited our office to say that he was troubled by the depiction of what happened when two men were kicked out of a mall recently.

Kevin Joseph explored the issue in a powerful column that ran a week and a half ago in the Friday rotation.

Here’s what Kevin wrote.

 

“Why can’t the police arrest him for being racist?”

My 11-year-old son asked me this recently. 

While I don’t agree that ignorance should be a jailable offense, my son’s comment made me think. What got his 11-year-old mind stirring was watching his dad talk to two First Nations men who had just been warned by a security guard in the mall that they should leave.

Were they causing a disturbance? No. Were they drunk and disorderly? No. In fact one of them had just bought a bottle of pop in the same mall. 

They spent a night in jail after being accused of attempted kidnapping at the same mall. It has since come to light that the two men had grabbed the child as he ran into traffic saving him from injury.  But the fact that they may have saved a child never received anywhere near the attention as when people thought there were kidnappers in the area. And after all, the two men are “just panhandlers.” 

Admittedly I may be making a harsh judgment of my own here.  The security guard was probably just “doing his job” and asking these two men who were sitting and visiting with a white woman to leave may not have been influenced by their race.”

 

The security guard wants it known that he and his fellow guards played no role in the situation where the men went to jail. This event went straight to the police and they dealt with the men.

Interestingly, the security guard backs up the story of the men, who were accused of “kidnapping” a youngster in the mall. He says the woman was texting on her phone when the child ran ahead.

One of the men reached out and saved the child from running into traffic, only to be yelled at by the mother.

The security guard says the men were absolutely innocent of what they were later accused of and they deserve an apology from the mother.

He was incensed that they spent a night in jail because of what she told police.

The security guard’s not angry about being painted as the bad guy; he’s more bewildered because he says he treats people decently.

He says he watches out for some of the folks with addiction issues when he leaves work. He likely saved the life of one person who had recently fallen asleep outside on a bitterly cold day when he summoned help.

The man says he treats everybody the same, regardless of race. His problem comes when people are panhandling, impaired or sleeping.

In fact, in the second part of Kevin’s story -- where they are escorted from the shopping establishment in Kevin’s final quoted paragraph -- the guard says it was the woman who had created problems earlier and the men had been swept up into it.

The guard has some hair-raising stories about the things that he has encountered on the job but insists that he continues to treat people like people.

He isn’t speaking for every security guard in Prince Albert or even the policies of where other guards are deployed. He speaks for himself.

I believe the security guard and I believe the sadness with which Kevin Joseph wrote his amazing opinion piece.

Ultimately there’s only one person who knows each of our hearts but I honestly believe the very different truth that came from both of these men.

 

• • • 

 

I wanted to give a quick thank you to the Grade 6 class taught by Ms. Russell and Mrs. Okanee at Arthur Pechey School. I was invited into their classroom for 80 minutes last Thursday to talk about the industry I love.

They are a bright, engaged group of students who had some fantastic questions for me about newspapers. I’m still puzzling over how I should have answered a couple of them. Thanks again.

 

• • • 

 

When I walked down the hall to our archives on a recent afternoon, I wasn’t sure what I was looking for to finish this column.

But I found it pretty quickly.

On March 3, 1964, the Daily Herald did a story on Olaf. R.E. Grelland, a 23-year veteran of the Prince Albert police force who has retired a month earlier.

He had some advice on a topic that probably still keeps current police Chief Troy Cooper up at night, which is police relations in the community.

Olaf urged citizens to raise their children to respect officers.

“The only way to have harmony is by working together, public and police … and that way we will have a wonderful society.”

Olaf was born in 1901 and grew up in Oslo, Norway, arriving in Prince Albert in 1927. He worked on a farm, at a lumber mill and at Saskatchewan Power Corporation before joining the force in May of 1941.

At the time, he was one of just seven officers policing a community of 15,000.

He spoke of advancements in local crime fighting, including the force finally getting a camera so that they wouldn’t have to depend on the RCMP to take crime scene pictures.

He was promoted to sergeant in 1956.

But Olaf Grelland was a lot more than a police officer.

He married Johanna Gloslee in 1931 and had three daughters and a son. When the story was written in March of 1964, the kids were all out living on the West Coast.

Olaf liked to fish, was an active member of the Elks Lodge and had boxed in his younger years.

At nearly 6’3”, he would have been considered a giant at the time.

I thought the fascinating fact of the story was that he played violin and helped found the Scandinavian Orchestra in Prince Albert.

I did some poking around on the Internet and discovered that Olaf died in 1982. His wife Johanna followed him a year later in 1983.

All of us live our own lives. Some are longer and some are shorter. Some people achieve great things and some people do little at all with the time that they’re given

Eventually, except for the greatest and the very worst among us, we are forgotten and our quiet lives are lost to time.

There are certainly many people who remember Olaf in this community and some who may have encountered him in his life’s work as a police officer.

In a small way, he is remembered on the brittle, yellowing paper of a Daily Herald that went to doorsteps 50 years ago.

Thanks Olaf.

 

 

Perry Bergson is the Daily Herald’s managing editor. You can reach him at 765-1302 or by email at perry.bergson@paherald.sk.ca

 

Organizations: Prince Albert, Daily Herald, Arthur Pechey School Saskatchewan Power Corporation RCMP Scandinavian Orchestra

Geographic location: Oslo, Norway, West Coast

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