It’s been just over two years since Calgary police officers learned about the death of one of their colleagues.
And news that two officers in Edmonton were shot and killed Thursday morning resulted in a “mix of emotions” for the president of the Calgary Police Association (CPA).
“Obviously, we grieve alongside our brothers and sisters in Edmonton, but there’s also anger at the senseless nature of what happened to the two officers there. It brings back memories of not so long ago when Sgt. (Andrew) Harnett was killed,” John Orr said.
Calgary Police Service Sgt. Andrew Harnett died in hospital on Dec. 31, 2020, after being dragged by a fleeing SUV and falling into the path of an oncoming car.
The driver, who cannot be identified because he was 17 at the time, was found guilty of manslaughter by a judge last November.
The shooting deaths of Edmonton police constables Travis Jordan, 35, and Brett Ryan, 30, are the seventh and eighth deaths of officers in the line of duty in Canada in the last six months.
‘Unthinkable and horrific tragedy’: Edmonton police chief responds to fatal shooting of 2 officers
Orr said there appears to be an increase in anti-police sentiment in recent years.
“It certainly does seem to be on the rise,” the CPA president said. “Not only do the officers I represent carry that with them, (but) their families carry that stress with them about what will happen when you go to work.
“There really is no such thing as a routine call. Traffic stops, domestic disturbances — any type of call can lead to this sort of situation, and it’s almost impossible to predict when it’s going to happen.”
The stress of having a loved one go out on duty facing unknown threats is familiar to Tara Ernst of Calgary Beyond the Blue, an association of family members and spouses of Calgary police officers.
“We’re the first responders of the first responders,” Ernst told Global News.
She said officers’ family members carry the same stresses that officers do, and are part of those officers’ support system when dealing with tragedies experienced in the course of policing.
“It hurts us and it’s our worst nightmare, what happened today,” Ernst said. “I think something like today shows you that just a simple 911 call can turn into something completely different and that’s a little terrifying.”
Procession at medical examiner’s officer for fallen Edmonton police officers
Jordan and Ryan were responding to a call about a domestic dispute at an Edmonton apartment building at 12:47 a.m. on Thursday.
Edmonton Police Service Chief Dale McFee said the officers were shot after approaching a suite in the apartment building.
As far as investigators can tell so far, McFee said the officers, “did not have a chance to discharge their firearms.”
They later died in hospital.
“The young male subject is also deceased,” McFee said, “believed to be from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.”
The CPA and Beyond the Blue have reached out to their Edmonton counterparts with offers of support.
“We’ll mobilize if they need anything at all,” Ernst said. “This is what this community kind of does, is that we rally around each other in times like this.”
Orr said there will be books of condolence put out at CPS headquarters and district offices for members to sign.
Alberta public safety minister says Edmonton police shooting hits close to home
“I’m certain when arrangements are made, there’ll be a large contingent of Calgary officers who attend the remembrance for these two officers,” he said.
The funeral for Harnett in January 2021 was invite-only due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, but the procession saw involvement from other police services, the RCMP and Canadian Armed Forces.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek, who spent years on the Calgary Police Commission, expressed condolences on behalf of the city and council to the Edmonton police family.
“We know that any time an officer responds to a call, they have no idea what they will meet on the other end. And this was an incredibly tragic situation,” she said.
Calgary city council observed a moment of silence before their meeting.
Ward 5 Coun. Raj Dhaliwal, who currently represents council on the police commission, expressed his condolences to Edmonton police, and looked forward to the southern Alberta city helping their northern counterpart in a time of need.
“(Police) put themselves in harm’s way each and every day to serve us, protect us,” Dhaliwal said. “I’m really saddened. I’m a husband. I’m a father, and I know how much I appreciate the great work they do. So losing these two innocent lives, it’s it’s really emotional.”
‘Today is a very difficult and sad day’: Edmonton mayor on fatal police shooting
Harnett’s name was brought up in the Alberta Legislature by Calgary-Bhullar-McCall MLA Irfan Sabir during a sombre question period session Thursday afternoon, after a moment of silence was observed.
“The sudden loss of two officers will reopen painful memories for many Albertans,” Sabir said. “Many people in my community are reminded of the death of Calgary Police Sergeant Andrew Harnett on New Year’s Eve in 2020.”
Public Safety and Emergency Services Minister Mike Ellis — who was a CPS sergeant at the time of Harnett’s death — thanked Sabir for bringing up the memory of Harnett.
“It was a very tragic event for the officers that I worked with. Obviously, the death of that officer is horrific. Any death, any death is horrific,” Ellis said.
“I’ll just say this: every one of us here has to learn lessons from these tragic events to make sure that they don’t happen again.
“And I will say on behalf of the minister of mental health and addictions: there are enormous supports that are available to help these families, to help these police services.”
— with files from Emily Mertz, Global News and The Canadian Press