For 30 hours last week, residents of Moncton lived through a nightmare. Their city was locked down. A man armed with a pump-action shotgun and a hunting rifle had cold-bloodedly ambushed and killed three Mounties, and injured two more. He was somewhere at large in the northern part of the city. People were told to stay home from work and school; some ran into their basements and waited. It can only be described as a terrifying experience.
But if it was bad for them, imagine how it was for the police.
Three of their colleagues were dead. The young man suspected of killing them seemed to be trying to make a statement. He was acting deliberately and was well armed. And yet, in spite of the imminent danger to themselves, and while fighting their grief, hundreds of officers set about the task of catching the suspect. They remained visible and exposed themselves to more danger – a counterinstinctual act. They didn’t have the option of hiding in their homes; their job was to provide security and reassurance to a city desperate for it, and that’s what they did. This was Canadian police professionalism at its best.
Canadians have, at times, a troubled relationship with the RCMP and other police forces. A lot of ink is spilled over their shortcomings. Sometimes, police officers break the law or act unprofessionally. The political activism of their unions rubs some the wrong way. That is all stuff that needs to be reported. But we also need to always remember who it is that we turn to when the absolute worst happens around us.
The Mounties who were killed are Constables David Ross, 32, Fabrice Georges Gévaudan, 45, and Douglas James Larche, 40. They will deservedly be hailed as heroes. Just as deserving are the police officers who remained in the line of fire during the siege of Moncton, and brought it to an end.