Excerpted from Sociology: A Critical Canadian Introduction – John Steckly – Oxford University Press (2017)

I have taught sociology to many students In the Police Foundations Program (PFP), where it is a required course. They typically enter the classroom with the same question: How can sociology help me as a police officer? This is my typical response.

Police officers deal with people all the time in their jobs. Sociology gives PFP students a set of tools that can help them understand people representing different social categories (based on ethnicity, gender, age, and so on); these tools enable police officers to relate to people more effectively and with greater justice.

An example will illustrate. One summer, my wife and I had to drive to downtown Toronto to tend too
a family emergency My father-in-law had disappeared while looking for his cor. He had been missing for over on hour. He did not have a cell phone. My wife and I spent the hour-long journey exchanging grimmer and grimmer explanations to account for her father’s disappearance. He could have been injured and taken to hospital. He could have been beaten up by thieves. He could have become disoriented and fallen into the lake One of us mentioned zombies. (Downtown Toronto, if you haven’t been there, can be a scary place.)

By the time we arrived on the scene, we were distraught, and so was my mother in law. My immediate
suggestion was to call the police. My perspective, as a white, middle-class older man, was that the police were there to help–that they would be working with us in a situation such as this. My mother-in-laws position, that of someone who had grown up in Nazi Germany, was that police were agents of oppression: you did not ask for their help; you did not want them knowing about you. This is the position of many people who have come to Canada, sometimes as refugees, from countries run
by oppressive, authoritarian regimes.

My mother-in-law strongly opposed calling the police. We called them anyway, and I explained why
my mother-in-law was nervous around them, and reluctant to give them information. I like to think that my knowledge of sociology helped me present her position in a manner the officers could relate to, having themselves taken sociology courses as part of their training. Together, we shared on understanding of the situation rooted in sociology.

And, yes, we found my father-in-law He had found his car and driven home, where he was waiting
for us, safe and sound.


Steckley, John. 2017. Elements of Sociology: A Critical Canadian Introduction. Oxford University Press.


Mike Sosteric (Dr. S.)

Just another loud mouth sociology professor, teaching sociology courses at Athabasca University. Check me out here at the Socjourn, over there at The Conversation and at academia.edu.

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