COLUMN: Cruel cost to serving and protecting our communities

We shouldn’t take for granted those who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us

Most of us who leave for work each morning are confident we will return home that evening.

Not all jobs carry that luxury.

Last week, we were once again reminded of that cruel reality.

Abbotsford Police Const. John Davidson was a 24-year veteran of law enforcement. Part of the Abby PD for the past six years, he began his policing career in northern England in 1993.

On Monday, Nov. 6, he was shot and killed, leaving a community in shock, and friends and family in mourning.

“He was the type of person you would want policing in your community,” said Const. Ian MacDonald. “He was passionate. He was compassionate. He was willing to put himself in harm’s way and equally willing to extend his hand to help anyone.”

And he was not alone.

Every day law enforcement officers wade into a world peppered with risk – but one where their empathy and understanding is expected.

It is a world of increasing violence. The number of weapons on the street, the level of violence seen almost daily in the Lower Mainland, is a reminder of the threat our law enforcement members face.

It’s changed the way our police respond. You’ve seen it in White Rock and all too often in Surrey, where the report of a gun will bring a massive police response. And we’ve seen it in Chilliwack, where it recently prompted the lockdown of a nearby school.

And it’s not just the guns. Vehicle crashes steal lives or leave injuries.

And then there’s the emotional toll.

In an ironic twist, Chilliwack RCMP gathered on Wednesday, Nov. 8 to unveil a monument to fallen members of that detachment, 35 kilometres away from the Abbotsford Police Department.

The event was scheduled before the death of Const. Davidson. But the Abbotsford shooting brought fresh poignancy to the commemoration.

Inscribed on the monument are the names of two members of the Upper Fraser Valley detachment. Const. Gerald Fortis, who died from injuries sustained in a crash on Christmas Day in 1997; and, Const. Vernon Genaille, who suffered a heart attack while arresting a suspect on Dec. 22, 2002.

In Cloverdale, the 176 Street overpass just south of Highway 10 is also dedicated to a fallen officer – it’s officially named after RCMP Cst. Roger Pierlet, who in 1974 was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

The last Sunday in September has been set aside to honour police and peace officers who have died in the line of duty. But said Superintendent Deanne Burleigh, Officer in Charge with the UFVRD: “We remember our fallen officers every day.”

It is easy to take for granted the sacrifices people make on our behalf. Our police, firefighters and other first responders routinely put their lives before others. Let’s acknowledge those who have the courage and commitment to go to work every day to keep our communities safe.

Greg Knill is editor of the Chilliwack Progress, a Black Press publication.

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