Last weekend, police officers from across the capital region travelled to Vancouver as part of a yearly memorial service to pay respects to officers killed in the performance of their duties.
In the last 150 years, five Victoria officers have been killed on the job — a low number that surprised me due to the inherent danger of the job, but one that also shows how vulnerable our officers still are.
Our city’s first police tragedy happened in 1859 when Const. Johnston Cochrane was shot and killed near the Craigflower area. Const. Cochrane had been on his way to arrest a person suspected of shooting a pig. His body was discovered the next day in the brush a few feet off the bloodied Craigflower Road. He had been shot twice by someone laying in wait. Despite two arrests, Cochrane’s murder was never solved.
In 1864, 24-year-old Const. John Curry was tragically shot and killed while running to the aid of a night watchman who had disturbed two burglars on Store Street. In a case of mistaken identity, the watchman mistook the young foot-patrol officer for one of the burglars and killed him with a single shot.
In 1920, Const. Robert Forster was on motorcycle patrol when he was accidentally struck and killed by a vehicle on Belleville Street. Another collision took the life of motorcycle officer Const. Albert Wells in 1927. The driver of the suspected vehicle fled the scene, but was later arrested and charged. Despite the introduction of crash helmets just two weeks earlier, motorcycle officer Const. Earle Doyle was killed in 1959 when he was thrown from his bike after being accidentally struck by a car that turned into his lane.
Compared to a lot of other Canadian cities that have lost officers to increased violence, Victoria, with the exception of the unsolved murder in 1859, looks almost sleepy. Unfortunately, this only holds true until you open the page to those officers whose names could have easily joined those five.
The first name that comes to mind is Const. Lane Douglas-Hunt, the 24-year-old female officer who was attacked by a knife-wielding man on Jan. 17, 2011, outside a convenience store on Douglas Street. The most routine of calls, shoplifting at a downtown 7/11, turned into a life-and-death struggle when a 59-year-old stranger suddenly grabbed Hunt’s face and slashed her neck with a knife. Fortunately, Const. Douglas-Hunt survived the ordeal. Her attacker, Guy Seguin, was sentenced to 10 years for attempted murder. His trigger, he said at the time, was the officer’s uniform; Const. Douglas-Hunt was simply unlucky to be the first officer to cross his path that day.
There has been a lot of debate around the cost of our police force, an important debate that won’t, nor should, go away anytime soon, but this memorial is a chance for everyone to remember just exactly what these men and women risk every time they put on the uniform to protect the peace. M