A police officer’s daughter shares her perspective

Malia Leighton, of Gore Bay, right, with her father Daryl Leighton.

The Keeper

Malia Leighton

Protected, but scared; what it’s like to be a police officer’s daughter. Do you ever wonder what it might be like to worry if your dad will make it home from work? Do you ever wonder how many birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmases a police officer may miss? Well, I can tell you all about it. 

My dad, Constable Daryl Leighton, is one of the 5,800 uniformed officers with the Ontario Provincial Police. He’s also one of 256 members of the Emergency Response Team. He has been an officer for 14 years. Police officers do their job by preventing and stopping crime in order to protect their communities, but at the end of the day they are still human just like you and I. They still have a life of their own, a family of their own.

Growing up, people would ask me, “What does your dad do for a living?” and I would always happily reply with, “My daddy is a police officer!” I was proud to tell people that my dad got the bad guys off the streets. 

Although I was happy and proud of his job, it wasn’t always that straight forward and easy. Being a police officer means working shift work and overtime. This means that our family can neve make solid plans due to my dad being on call. There have been many dinners interrupted, phone calls in the middle of the night, missing important events and working on holidays. There have been many times that I sat in my room, praying that the garage door will open soon. I usually don’t even realize I’m worrying until he gets home and hugs me. 

My dad has always been my best friend. He would have tea parties with me when I was little, take me to concerts, coaches me in sports and has taught me how to hunt.

In today’s society, being a 17-year-old girl is hard enough. Then add being the 17-year-old daughter of a police officer. This definitely changes the picture. I mean of course I’m extremely proud of my dad and his job, but now that I’m older, I find myself a little more hesitant to reveal what he does for a living. You hear a lot of negativity about police officers. I get a sickening feeling when I hear about another slain officer or people bashing police officers. When people threaten an officer, they’re threatening my dad and his family. People have so much hate for the police, and yet, my dad continues to put his life on the line to protect yours.

Because of my dad; everything and everyone is a bit safer, but because of those who say, “police lives don’t matter,” things are a little more dangerous for him. When you’re the daughter of a police officer you have to be strong. You have more responsibilities and you’re expected to follow the rules. Being an officer’s daughter also means being scared to disagree with what’s popular on social media. You fear the people out there putting targets on your dad’s back because of the badge on his chest. You don’t talk about it because you don’t want to hear people talk bad about the person who raised you. 

This means staying away from the news and social media, it means sleepless nights, it means trying not to be angry with society. It’s not really something that you get used to. It’s a lifestyle that you have to accept. In my opinion, being the daughter of a police officer is a good thing for any girl. She will grow up strong, smart, and know how to defend herself.

What do you want to do after high school? “I want t be a police officer,” is what I respond with. Kind of crazy right? I’ve seen what it’s like to be an officer and experienced what it’s like to live with one. I’ve had many people question this response, but I am well aware of what I’m getting myself into. I want to keep people and communities safe, I want to inspire people, I want to help people. My dad has always been my hero, he has always inspired me. He gives me pep talks, wipes away my tears, he’s kind, patient, loving and my mentor. I want to make an impact on people and communities like my dad has. I want to take on the name of Constable Leighton.

So, the next time you see a police officer, before you automatically label them, remember this is their job, they have a family to go home to. There’s a girl waiting to hear, “I love you” one more time. To you, he may be just another ‘cop’- but to me, he is my dad, he is my keeper, he is my world.