Belfast Telegraph

Police are of and from Northern Ireland society

By Mark Lindsay

Later today the Police Federation for Northern Ireland will do something unique in policing terms.

Traditionally we've always taken the view that we stick to the business of representing officers on the job - giving practical help where and when it matters with their welfare, front and centre.

At lunchtime we'll embark on something that places welfare on a different level. We will launch a campaign entitled #WeAreYou, which seeks to address some misperceptions about our officers.

There's the mistaken belief that the men and women I represent are a somehow privileged group, cocooned from the rest of society.

There's a view that cops are robots, doing what they're told and nothing more - and that they're hardened to the tragic incidents they deal with all too frequently.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Our officers are of and from our community. They grapple with the same challenges as the people they serve.

Take them out of their uniforms and the men and women who rush towards danger for a living have identical concerns and worries.

#WeAreYou is our way of restoring balance. Through a series of professionally made, high-end mini-movies that will get widespread exposure, the Police Federation sets out to show how officers are far from shielded or immune.

They have to deal with tragedy in a professional, empathetic manner, but often they relate what they see to their own family circumstances. A victim of a vicious assault could just as easily be their grandparent, or a missing child might be the same age as their own son or daughter.

While most people occasionally deal with traumatic events, police officers often witness two or three such incidents in one week. #WeAreYou doesn't seek to whip up sympathy for them. No, we merely wish to make the community we serve better informed of who we are and what we do.

We work against an appalling and unacceptable threat from terrorists - and that makes the job like no other in the public sector.

In return we ask for a little understanding and acceptance that we really are no different from the people we serve.

Mark Lindsay is chairman of the Police Federation for Northern Ireland

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