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Const. Amy Finn gets a big hug from Joey Reid, 11, at an annual community luncheon.

Policing has made great technological strides over the past three decades. Using DNA to help identify suspects has become more widespread, for example, while computers in cruisers and now Blackberrys in the hands of frontline officers give our men and women in blue more timely access to a host of information that is beneficial in helping to solve crimes and find individuals.

But they also can contribute to a disconnect between the police officers and the public to which they serve. And one thing that must never change is the person-to-person contact.

It used to involve officers walking the beat, getting to know the people in a particular neighbourhood or part of town. With the widespread use of police cruisers, few cops saunter around the community anymore, but that doesn’t mean they are truly disconnected from the citizens.

Const. Amy Finn, for example, spent 30 years serving the people of Chatham and Chatham-Kent. She was more than just connected to her community; she was plugged into it in several ways.

Encounter Finn at any public event and chances are you’d see children and adults come up to talk to her, some giving her hugs.

Chatham’s first female police officer lives in the heart of the community. She’s involved in a host of community events, and helped the police service drive home the point that behind every uniform is a real person.

Finn, who retired April 25, is not alone; there are other officers who interact with the public on a daily basis. Some of the senior officers came up at a time when walking the beat was part of the job.

But it’s unlikely any are as connected as Finn was. And that is likely true of the younger officers on the job.

We all rely more and more on technology these days, and less on direct public interaction. Whether it’s researching a story for a newspaper, or seeking information on a possible crime, technology is usually the first option to which we turn.

We must never forget the power of trust, something that is gained best through face-to-face conversations and mutual respect.

Finn understood that; immersed herself in it. And the public respected her for it.

She will be missed as a member of the police service, but given her personality, Finn won’t be a stranger, that’s for sure.

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