Hundreds of police gather to honour fallen comrades

Hundreds of police gather to honour fallen comrades

TORONTO – Five more names were added Sunday to the granite wall that serves as the base for the Ontario Police Memorial on the grounds of the legislature in a solemn ceremony attended by hundreds of officers from across the province.

The five who died since last year’s memorial for fallen police marked the largest single addition to the wall of honour in any one year, and raised the total number of names carved into the stone to 241.

“At last year’s 10th annual ceremony, we were fortunate not to add any serving officers to our wall of honour,” said James Christie, president of the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation. “Our prayers in hoping that this rarity could be repeated this year were not realized.”

OPP Const. Alan Hack, 31, died in July 2009 after he was involved in a car crash while responding to an incident in Elgin County.

Const. Eric Czapnik of the Ottawa Police Service, who didn’t become a policeman until age 48, was stabbed to death outside an Ottawa hospital in January. He was 51 years old.

OPP Const. Vu Pham was gunned down in March after pulling over a suspect in the Wingham area. He was 37 years old.

Const. James Ochakovsky, who was born in Moldova, died in February after his cruiser collided with another vehicle while he was going to assist a colleague. He was 36 years old.

RCMP Chief Supt. Douglas Coates died in the earthquake that devastated Haiti in January. Coates, 57, was a member of the UN peacekeeping mission in that country.

“With regret we add these names to this granite, and with resolve, we solemnly commit ourselves to do all we can to keep the remaining stone as smooth as possible,” said Premier Dalton McGuinty after he presented plaques to the families of the fallen officers.

“The life stories of these brave men tell us that in spite of a world that seems too dark sometimes, strength of character and good work is what society honours. Heroes are remembered.”

Lt.-Gov. David Onley said despite their tragic deaths, the officers killed on the job were still helping serve Ontario.

“They live on in the memories of those who knew them, and they continue to serve as role models for those who come after them,” said Onley.

Community Safety Minister Rick Bartolucci said it was important for the families of the fallen officers to know their lives were being honoured, not the way they died.

“In a very real way, today we celebrate these incredible individuals, but we celebrate them because they are heroes in life, not death,” said Bartolucci.

The police memorial, which features a bronze statue of two police officers on top of a large granite pedestal, honours those who have died in the line of duty in Ontario since 1804.

“We all stand with you in your mourning,” McGuinty told the families of the fallen officers.

“In this way we honour the memory of your loved one, we build on their legacy of service and we give thanks for the safe, generous, supportive communities that our fallen dedicated their lives to building. We will always, always remember.”

Sunday’s ceremonies at the legislature included a large parade with bagpipes, drummers and hundreds of uniformed officers, including mounted and motorcycle units.