Chief James Ramer led a group of Toronto police officers participating in the National Peace Officers Memorial ceremony on September 25 in Ottawa.
Acting Deputy Chiefs Lauren Pogue and Pauline Gray also joined the Chief in recognizing the lives of officers added to the memorial hall on Parliament Hill, including Toronto Detective-Constable Jeffrey Northrup.
The memorial took place a few days after Constable Andrew Hong was laid to rest in a tribute attended by 8,000 police service members and family.
“Although we were there to honour the officers who would be added to the memorial wall, one couldn’t help but think of the events that had unfolded in the past two weeks,” said Staff Superintendent Peter Code, who was among the Toronto officers. “With the arrival of the Ride to Remember and Run to Remember members on September 24, we were all reminded of the names of all the officers that have fallen in the line of duty as their names were proudly displayed on the armbands of the runners and riders.”
Margaret Northrup, the widow of Detective Constable Jeffrey Northrup, who lost his life in the line of duty last year, and her three children were in Ottawa to participate in the ceremony and welcome the riders and runners.
“The feeling of closeness and shared grief amongst the group was overwhelming and, in fact, very comforting and gave a sense of a strong emotional bond,” noted Code. “At the same time, you could also feel the emptiness that comes with such loss, especially when speaking with those family members and partners that were so directly impacted.”
The lives of Northrup, Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Constables Alan Popast, Shelby Patton and Heidi Stevenson; Calgary Police Sergeant Andrew Harnett; and Ontario Provincial Police Constable Marc Hovingh were honoured this year.
In addition, Surrey Police Constable George McDonald and RCMP Superintendent Dennis Massey were historically admitted.
The Run to Remember and 700-kilometre Ride to Remember preceded the memorial ceremony drawing runners and cyclists to who made the trip from Toronto to Parliament Hill over the course of two days.
Detective Lindsay Neale captained an Integrated Gun & Gang Task Force team that included her partner Richard Luczyk, Shawn McKenzie, Rob Cordova, Paul Canning and Liam Wauchope, who shared a desk with Sergeant Ryan Russell who died in the line of duty in 2011.
“It is so important to make sure that the families of fallen officers know that we are standing by our commitment to remember them and we will be always there for them,” said Neale, who is in her 16th year with the Service.
She and Luczyk ran for Mike Irwin and his partner Doug Sinclair who were killed on February 1972 after being confronted by a tenant with a long criminal history who was facing eviction.
About 222 law enforcement professionals representing Toronto Police and 29 other agencies participated in this year’s 460-km relay run.
Chief Ramer said the run is part of a proud tradition to honour officers who died in the line of duty.
“We run to honour the service and sacrifice of our fellow officers, to express an unfailing gratitude and support for their loved ones and to keep the memories of our heroes burning bright,” he said. “Although this occasion is of course deeply important to us each and every year, in this moment its significance is perhaps never clearer or closer to our hearts.”
“The passing of all those heroes we honour today left deep and painful tears in our police communities,” said Ramer. “Through this ceremony, through this initiative, we set about repairing that fabric, shoulder to shoulder, stride by stride. Every kilometer, I know, will lie heavy with the memories of our fallen officers. The families of Andrew, Jeff and all officers who have paid the ultimate sacrifice carry with them that heaviness every day. But thanks to the dedication and generosity of you, our runners, and all those who support them, we can work together to alleviate just some of that burden. We can and we will.”
Hong’s name will etched on the memorial wall next May.
“There it will lie forever, to remind all of those who pass it by of his extraordinary legacy,” added Ramer. “Fortunately, we will not wait until then to follow in his footsteps. That work can and does start now. Though we each experience the pain of Andrew’s loss and all those officers who have fallen, individually, through your efforts this morning, we move forward, we run, united in healing, united in our determination to never forget.”
Choking back tears, Ontario Police Memorial Foundation President Jason Tomlinson said the run started a day earlier when officers marched in solidarity alongside Hong.
“The ‘Run to Remember’ is a family tradition, a family gathering of brothers and sisters committed to honouring those who paid the ultimate price and who continue to support the loved ones left behind,” he pointed out. “I cannot be prouder of this family of ours, especially the survivors. Despite reliving your own pain during solemn occasions and gatherings such as these, you muster the strength to come together in unity to support, to love and to heal.”
Premier Doug Ford acknowledged the sacrifice officers make when they commit to safeguarding communities.
“I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for the work you do every day,” he said. “You put on your uniforms, you go out there and you save lives.”
While attending Hong’s funeral, Ontario’s Solicitor General Michael Kerzner said he and Ford saw first-hand the sacrifice public safety officers make to the province.
“Some things have to matter, our community safety must matter and those who keep us safe must matter,” he said. “By participating in this Run to Remember, you have made a commitment to recognize the courage and dedication of our Service member and honour those who have fallen. Your strength and determination show us that nothing is impossible and together we are up to the challenge when it comes to our public safety. We will continue to do what is hard, we will achieve what is hard and we will together keep Ontario safe.”
Because of COVID-19, the Memorial Run was not held in the last two years.
“It’s nice to be back,” said Constable Laurie McCann of 52 Division. “This year is significant for Toronto Police in that we have lost two officers in the last 14 months. It’s is going to be a somber, but a good run.”
For the past nine years, McCann has dedicated her run to Constable Todd Baylis who died in the line of duty in 1994.
“I am going to put Andrew Hong’s name on another armband I will wear,” she said. “But I always run for Todd who I knew in high school.”
The Memorial Run was launched in 2005 to create awareness of the police and peace officers memorial service in Ottawa on the last Sunday of September, and to raise money for trust funds and memorials established in memory of police officers who have died in the line of duty.
Nearly $500,000 in donations have been made since the run started with 24 Peel Regional Police participants.