'We are all human': Edmonton police extend supports after officers killed

“So many things go through a police officer’s mind when the unthinkable happens.”

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As the city begins “a new stage of grief and healing” in the wake of two Edmonton police officers killed on the job, support is available to those coping with the trauma, police and union officials say.

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Police constables Travis Jordan and Brett Ryan were shot by a 16-year-old boy in the early hours of March 16 and pronounced dead at a hospital after responding to a family violence call at an Inglewood apartment complex in northwest Edmonton.

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The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) west division, where the two constables were based, had a psychologist on site by 6 a.m. to assist officers returning from the hospital, as well as others seeking help through to the following Sunday, said Kellie Morgan, acting deputy chief of EPS’s community policing bureau.

“After the first four to five days, it was a heavy, heavy, somber, emotional, challenging, heart-wrenching time,” Morgan told media at a news conference Wednesday in TD Tower, adding that other police branches received similar mental health supports. “Tragic, senseless deaths like these set off a wide range of emotions for all of us. We are all human.”

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EPS also ensures members have access to its critical incident stress management (CISM) team as well as the employee and family assistance section (EFAS), which help officers (as well as direct family members in the latter case) coping with trauma, Morgan said.

‘Another horrible tragedy’

The CISM team constantly reminds officers of supports available to them, said EPS Sgt. Curtis Hoople, who is also president of the Edmonton Police Association (EPA).

“They like to flood the divisions to ensure that they get as many people covered as possible,” Hoople said at the news conference, adding that he’s been a member of the CISM team since 2008. “That’s by design. We need to ensure that everybody knows where the supports are and who they can lean on.”

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Morgan said both officers throughout the service as well as their families have felt the effects of the constables’ deaths.

“So many things go through a police officer’s mind when the unthinkable happens,” Morgan said. “It is a normal response to be triggered and reminded of past trauma, including the loss of Const. Daniel Woodall in 2015, and the many police officer deaths we have endured across the country in the last several months.”

Woodall, a 35-year-old hate crimes investigator, was shot and killed by Norman Raddatz on June 8, 2015, while police were trying to arrest Raddatz at his home for criminal harassment.

Jordan and Ryan are the latest Edmonton police officers killed in the line of duty since Woodall, but not in Canada.

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Shortly after a regimental funeral in Edmonton on Monday for the two Edmonton officers, Quebec provincial police Sgt. Maureen Breau was fatally stabbed while trying to arrest a man in Louiseville, about 100 kilometres northeast of Montreal. The Canadian Press has reported nine police officer deaths in Canada since September 2022.

“Everybody is already grieving, mourning and really still in the raw, early stages of this traumatic event,” Morgan said of the Edmonton officers’ deaths. “So when another horrible tragedy happens to one of our police family, that impacts us greatly.”

‘A life of service’

The Edmonton Police Association will be sending two members to Breau’s funeral alongside a pair from the Senior Officers’ Association representing Edmonton inspectors and superintendents, although the union has received a flood of emails from officers hoping to attend, Hoople said.

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“They seem to really want to give back because of the recency of this funeral,” he said.

EPS estimates about 3,500 people from various police, first-responder and other services marched in a Downtown funeral procession for the Edmonton officers, while about 10,000 attended a ceremony that followed in Rogers Place, spokeswoman Cheryl Voordenhout said.

Moreover, Morgan said she was heartened by a recent increase in applications to join EPS in light of recent police deaths.

“A lot of us were maybe thinking this is going to negatively impact our recruiting numbers, or maybe even have people turn away or cancel their applications,” Morgan said.

EPS has received 140 applications in the first quarter of 2023, with 50 submissions in March alone, Voordenhout said, up from 130 applications over the same period last year, which saw only 30 applicants in March 2022.

“It speaks to the people who are now stepping up, who perhaps have had the calling to be a police officer — to have a life of service to the community.”

— With files from Jonny Wakefield and The Canadian Press




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