June 17, 2005
recent death of RCMP Constable Jose Agostinho of the Wetaskiwin,
Alberta Detachment, has brought to the forefront yet again, the dangers
faced every day by Peace Officers across Canada. It certainly makes me
think back to March of this year.
more than four months have passed since the events at Mayerthorpe,
Alberta occurred, it will be a long time before the Law Enforcement
community gets over the murders of Constables Brock Myrol, Lionide
Johnston, Peter Schiemann, and Anthony Gordon. Peace Officers in this
country and around the world face danger each and every day, but this is
killing goes beyond tragic. It's disturbing. It's not so much that
these officers died, but how they died. If a person is not afraid to
kill an armed and trained Peace Officer, do you think they will hesitate
to kill an innocent civilian?
well, you have to go back to 1958, when five RCMP officers drowned when
their boat sank on Lake Simcoe, to find a time when this many police
officers were killed in the same occurrence. It just doesn't happen this
way in Canada very often.
Peace Officers are purposely and brutally murdered, such as Cobourg
Constable Chris Garrett, OPP Senior Constable Thomas Coffin or Toronto
Constables Michael Sweet and David Goldsworthy, there is no explanation
still tragic, it is a different scenario if a Peace Officer is killed
accidentally, for example in a motor vehicle collision, such as the one
that just recently claimed the life of Constable Jose Agostinho. Toronto
Constable Laura Ellis and Military Police Corporal Stephen Gibson also
met a similar fate, as did OPP Senior Constable James McFadden, who was
poignantly killed on December 31, 1999 around 5:00 pm, just as the sun
was setting on the 20th century. It doesn't make their deaths any easier
to take, nor make their efforts any less noble than others killed, but
we all understand that accidents happen. It's a fact of life, but it can
still be a very hard thing to endure.
recently attended the Greater Cleveland Area Peace Officer Memorial
ceremony in Cleveland, Ohio. During the ceremony, a woman named Grace
Leon spoke to the assembled crowd. Grace is the widow of Cleveland
Police Officer Wayne Leon, who was shot to death during a "routine
traffic stop" on June 26, 2000. He was only 32 years old and besides his
wife, left behind 3 children, ages 5, 4 and 2. During her address,
Grace not only described how she had to explain to her children that
daddy would never come home again, she also had to answer questions
like, "Why can't daddy come to my birthday party for just a few minutes"
or (from her youngest child) "Did I ever meet daddy" I noticed a few
officers dabbing their eyes during that address. It is something to
which we can all relate, and is something that no family needs to
you will notice, I have so far referred to "Peace Officers", since it
is not just Police Officers that face danger and death. Just ask any
Correctional Officer who worked at Archambault Penitentiary during the
riot of 1982, when Senior Keeper Leandre Leblanc, Correctional Officer
Denis Rivard and Senior Correctional Officer David Van Den Abeele were
brutally murdered by inmates who had taken them hostage. We should not
forget that the Correctional Service of Canada has also suffered
multiple deaths of their officers, regardless of the fact that they were
all in one day.
recently, Provincial Corrections Officers Pierre Rondeau of the
Montreal Court Escort Unit and Diane Lavigne of the Montreal Detention
Centre, were murdered during the Quebec Biker wars of the mid 1990's.
not just the junior members who are killed, either. In 1995, Chief
Denis Nadeau of the Sainte-Marie de Beauce Police Service in Quebec was
killed when he attended a residence in response to a domestic dispute.
The gunman was someone whom he had known.
civilian members of law enforcement agencies have made the supreme
sacrifice. Most recently, RCMP Auxiliary Constable Glen Evely was killed
in a motor vehicle collision (auxiliary officers, although uniformed,
are considered civilian members). Here was a man who wasn't doing this
job for money or other financial considerations; he was doing it to
serve his community. Auxiliary officers are unpaid volunteers. Glen
didn't need to be on duty that night. He was on his time off from his
regular job and could have been at home with his family, but he chose to
serve his community and paid a heavy price for it.
makes the death of any Peace Officer most upsetting to those of us in
law enforcement is that any of us could be killed in the same way. How
many times on a "routine traffic stop", or while guarding a crime scene,
could a Police Officer be seriously injured or killed. How many times a
day could a Correctional Officer be attacked while walking "the
ranges." Think of our unarmed Customs Inspectors, Commercial
Transportation Enforcement Officers or others with powers to do motor
vehicle stops. Alberta currently employs unarmed Special Constables in
many rural counties to enforce municipal and provincial laws, including
Highway Traffic Act offences, freeing up the RCMP to pursue criminal
some ways, I think Conservation Officers have it worse than I do when
enforcing hunting regulations, as a large number of the people they deal
with are armed. It's just fortunate I guess, that more Conservation
Officers haven't been killed, especially given the heavy fines,
prohibitions and broad seizure powers that a Conservation Officers can
impose on those in violation of provincial or federal conservation acts.
At least Conservation Officers carry handguns, unlike the vast majority
of Peace Officers in this country. I could go on and on talking about
Probation Officers, Parole Officers, Fisheries Officers, Park Wardens,
CSIS Agents, Sheriff's Officers, Environmental Protection Officers,
Federal Wildlife Enforcement Officers and Animal Cruelty Inspectors, but
I think you get the point.
positive thing that may come of the deaths of officers such as
Constables Myrol, Johnston, Schiemann, Gordon or Officer Leon (or many
others), is that it will serve to remind all of us in law enforcement
that we have to be vigilant at all times. Their deaths can serve to
educate all of us.
year, on the last Sunday in September, the Canadian Police and Peace
Officer Memorial Service is held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to pay
tribute to fallen Canadian officers. Hundreds of Peace Officers from
Canada, the United States and Europe attend this service each year, many
at their own expense (myself included). Since the early 1980's, between
six and eight officers have lost their lives EACH YEAR.
wish to invite to my fellow Canadians to be on Parliament Hill each
September to remember the nearly 600 officers who have died in the line
of duty since 1804, when High Constable John Fisk of the King Township
Police died. "They are our heroes. We shall not forget them."
more information, visit the Canadian Police & Peace Officers
Memorial web site at http://www.cacp.ca/english/memoriam or the "Officer
Mike" web site at http://www.officermike.com/memorial/index.htm, both
of which have full listings of Police & Peace Officers who have died
in the line of duty.
visit the following web sites: