Vancouver police Sgt. Mark Steinkampf is one of the stars of The Beat, a 10-part docu-drama that followed members of the VPD’s beat enforcement team in the Downtown Eastside during the spring of 2008. It has aired in Australia and Quebec and now airs Fridays at 9 p.m. on Citytv.

What will Vancouver viewers take from the show?

It will open a lot of people’s eyes as to the true nature of the (Downtown Eastside).

People like to portray this area as a big happy family, but from what I see, not a lot of that goes on. The viewer is going to see the area for what it is, the sad and sick existence of many of these people.

I’m not trying to portray these people as bad ... I’ve seen many people get out of this area and move on to become decent people. But ... a lot of the folks down here are just plain bad. They are predatory in nature and prey on the weak and the sick and the elderly. Even if they’re drug addicts and they cleaned up, they’d still be bad people.

Any reservations making the series?
I didn’t want it to have a Hollywood feel. They’re at work with me and my squad. We’re not at work with them. We are what we are. We are the people that we are. We’re the police in one of the toughest areas to work in, in Canada, if not North America. We wanted the honest, brutal truth and reality of the Downtown Eastside to come through. And I think it does.

How do you deal with the sadness?
I recognize that folks didn’t wake up thinking that they would end up in a place like this. When you catch some of these people in a lucid moment and the sadness and the stark reality of this existence comes through — I don’t think a person would be human if you didn’t feel sadness for them.

The saddest thing that I see is a family member coming down here and approaching me with pictures of their kids, “Have you seen my child?” They come from all across Canada, from Toronto or the Yukon, “I’ve come all this way because I’ve heard my child is here. Have you seen them?” That probably strikes me the hardest.

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