The best leaders and the best teachers are the ones who’ve learned by experience. Ernie Louttit is one of those leaders who teaches valuable life lessons in his book, Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Policing and Leadership. This is an up-close, personal look at some of the seamier streets of Saskatoon where his police beat took him.
Ernie was educated in the school of hard knocks. Kicked out of school several times before grade eight, he dropped out of grade eleven. He worked as a labourer in northern Ontario, joined the Canadian Armed Forces, and served for a time as a peacekeeper with the United Nations in Cyprus. He was with inexperienced troops whose job was to patrol the front lines between hostile Greek and Turkish forces. “Somehow we made it through without getting ourselves killed or starting a war,” Ernie notes.
After a stint as a military policeman, Ernie joined the Saskatoon Police Service, becoming only the third native member of the force. As an Aboriginal man, he faced racism and discrimination throughout his life. But he turned these adversities to his advantage. Those who tried to beat him down, taught him perseverance. Those who tried to put him down, taught him tolerance for others. “Indian Ernie” simply outlasted his enemies and carried his nickname like a well-earned badge of honour.
Ernie provides some graphic details of crimes he investigated. Although he sympathized with fellow natives who broke the law, justice came first. A crime was a crime, regardless of one’s ethnic make-up or background. Ernie believed in telling the truth, at all costs. “The truth is the thin crust on which justice walks,” he writes. Fortunately, the justice system had greatly improved by the time Ernie retired from the force in 2013.
An engaging storyteller with a mass appeal, Ernie’s distinctive writing style is reminiscent of the television series Dragnet, where he succinctly tells “just the facts” of a case, then launches into his opinion of its outcome. He spent his entire twenty-seven years with the Saskatoon Police Service in the patrol section, even after attaining the rank of sergeant. A people person, he preferred patrolling a beat, meeting people face to face, rather than being confined to a desk.
He got to know the people on the street and often arrested repeat offenders; he knew their hideouts, especially one apartment building that was home mainly to alcoholics and drug users. He visited this building so frequently that the owner gave him a key to the front door. Some tenants actually rehearsed their escape routes in case Ernie showed up.
This 190-page book contains a dozen black and white photos of Ernie’s early family life and his life on the job. The twenty-three chapters are packed with life lessons – lessons Ernie learned the hard way. Winner of the Aboriginal Peoples’ Writing Award at the 2015 Saskatchewan Book Awards, Indian Ernie: Perspectives on Policing and Leadership should be required reading at every police college in Canada.
THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM