A trio of boys in Eastern Ontario aspired to save lives.
A trio of officers they became, fearlessly donning red or blue in rural Canada.
A trio of policemen ambushed with bullets no badge could shield.
A trio memorialized.
Since 2007, at least three cops from the region — RCMP Const. Christopher John Worden, RCMP Const. Douglas Scott, and Kativik Regional Police Force Const. Steve Dery — have been shot and killed in the line of duty while serving in remote areas.
“I think there’s a difference when you’re working up North,” the president of the Quebec Federation of Municipal Police Forces Denis Cote said this week. “Everybody in the village has a firearm.”
Drugs, alcohol, and high crime rates exacerbate their vulnerability.
With limited resources, officers in northern Quebec travel in pairs only at night, Cote said.
The exception: Potentially violent calls.
“You never answer those calls alone,” he said.
A situation may escalate, but “if you’re asking for backup, there’s no backup. You have to manage the call with you and your partner,” he said.
Since there are no permanent roads, “you have to go by plane.”
A plane ride away, Worden worked in Hay River, N.W.T.; Scott was stationed in Kimmirut, Nunavut.
Just four weeks separated their deaths in fall 2007; in response, the RCMP changed its backup policy.
As of 2008, backup is mandatory in the following instances: Calls of violence or where violence is anticipated, domestic disputes, areas where communications are known to be deficient, and occurrences involving the use, display or threatened use of a weapon, a subject posing a threat to self or others, or a situation where the member believes a multiple member response is required based on his or her risk assessment.
That doesn’t mean officers are banned from taking action before backup arrives, “for example, in a domestic dispute where grievous bodily harm or death is imminent,” RCMP spokesman Cpl. David Falls wrote in an e-mail.
“RCMP members are always required to balance the requirements of policy with the reality of an incident in progress and the need for immediate response,” Falls said.
Quick reaction was required when these officers were dispatched alone to routine calls.
Worden went to look for a suicidal person around 6 a.m.
A drug dealer shot Worden four times — before he even had time to remove his gun from its holster.
Scott was responding to a call for an impaired driver who had an infant in the truck. A shot to the head ensured he never made it out of his RCMP 4X4.
Dery’s death is still under investigation.
Despite the imminent risk, officers continue to pursue their love of policing and with pride, relocate to remote communities, putting the safety of others before their own.
Police officers from across North America — including a delegation from the Kativik force — will be converging on the capital for Dery’s funeral Saturday. Dery, who was raised in Orléans, served with the Kativik police force for more than four years, mostly based in Kuujjuaq. He is the first KRPF officer to be killed on duty.
“Const. Dery was a trusted and professional police officer, who was respected by his colleagues as well as by the members of the community he worked so hard to serve and protect,” Kativik Police Chief Aileen MacKinnon said in a statement.
Answering a call for a domestic disturbance at a house in Kuujjuaq around 9:30 p.m. on March 2, Dery and his partner Const. Joshua Boreland were met with gunfire.
The gunman barricaded himself and about 17 hours later, police burst into the home and found the body of alleged shooter, Jobie Saunders Jr., 21.
A woman in the house escaped without injury.
“We must point out the courage and dedication of the officers in Kuujjuaq who, despite the situation, stayed strong and continued on at the scene to ensure the safety of the public, until the assistance of the Surete du Quebec could arrive and take over the situation,” Nunavik Police Association president Charles Boulianne said in a statement.
“(Dery’s) smile and good spirits will be forever remembered. He was a police officer in which all officers could model themselves after. When Steve Dery took his final First Air flight home, he took a piece of each officer with him; he will be in our hearts and memories forever.”
Boreland, who is originally from Quispamsis, N.B., is expected to attend Dery’s funeral.
“Const. Boreland is doing well and is expected to fully recover from his injuries,” MacKinnon said.
Routine family disputes are the most common type of call officers are sent to in the 14 communities of Nunavik, Northern Quebec — where Dery was killed — Boulianne said.
Domestic calls pose a threat to all officers, regardless of locale, said Surete du Quebec spokesman Marc Tessier.
“It’s a very emotional situation for both parties,” he said. “You never know how the person’s going to react.”
For instance, if officers get sent to a call for spousal assault and make an arrest, “sometimes the wife could turn on you, or vice versa,” Tessier said, noting “anything can be used as a weapon.”
In most domestic cases, SQ police handle, the victim is usually female. he said.
“So our role is very precise: To help her, give her some resources to help her get out of the situation.”
Time is often a luxury officers can’t afford. “You have to intervene very quickly to help the person,” said Tessier.
“Fortunately, a situation like last week doesn’t happen very often, but the officers, they always have to be on their guard and always have in their mind that it’s an explosive situation.”
Even if the complainants are known to police, “it doesn’t mean you can go with your guard down,” Tessier said.
Official service for Const. Steve Dery takes place 11 a.m. at the Notre-Dame Cathedral Basilica, 385 Sussex Dr.
An estimated 700 officers will march north on Sussex, from the Ottawa Convention Centre to the Basilica starting at 10:10 a.m.
KILLED IN THE LINE OF DUTY
Homicides of law enforcement officers between 1961 and 2009:
133 police officers have been murdered in the line of duty.
92% of all officers killed were shot to death.
On average, murdered officers were 34 years old and had been with their present police service for 5 years or less.
Ontario has seen the most murders against officers (44) followed by Quebec (41), Alberta (14) and B.C. (10).
65% of the officers were killed between 1961 and 1984.
Since 1961, cops were most often murdered during a robbery investigation, accounting for 23% of all killings.
Another 14% of police officers were murdered while responding to a domestic dispute, although most of these homicides occurred during the 1960s and 1970s.
In more recent years, stopping a suspicious vehicle/person and stopping a vehicle for a traffic violation have resulted in more homicides against police officers than responding to domestic disputes.
In cases of patrol officers being murdered, 54% were assigned to two-officer vehicles and 46% to one-officer vehicles.
The accused has been identified in 96% of homicides against officers.
— Source: Statistics Canada/Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics
TRIBUTES TO A FALLEN OFFICER
“I have seen Steve many times around the village, maybe he arrested me a couple times not sure but i always remember he was one of the friendliest officers I have ever met.”
“I knew Steve, and he was a great man. He was nice, as a person, to kids, to animals, to people in general. He didn’t deserve this, when he was just doing his job, a thing he did well.”
“I know him as a nice, young, good, kind man. His hard work, service and protection will always be remembered. He will be missed. It was an honour to have him as a police officer in my hometown.”
“I won’t be able to ever thank Steve … for the protection and help that he gave me personally when I desperately needed it. He was a good person and a good police officer … Rest in peace, dear Steve.”