(This column was published in the North Shore News on Sept. 25, 2002)

 

Models for us all to emulate

 By Leo Knight

There's something about a police funeral that haunts me long after the deceased has been laid to rest.

 

Saturday's formal goodbye of Richmond RCMP Constable Jimmy Ng was just such an occasion. The Force did him proud, giving him a send-off with full regimental honours.

 

Row upon row of red serge, boots and "breeks," hi-browns spit-shined to a fare-thee-well, wearers' lips trembling and eyes softly leaking as they stared stoically ahead. Pipers playing a lonely lament as the drum section keeps time, their instruments draped in black. Hundreds and hundreds of police officers from all over North America, some as far away as Texas, Pennsylvania and New York, looking sombre and resolute as they salute a colleague they didn't know, but shared a common cause.

 

Jimmy Ng was only 32 years old when he died. He had just six years on the job when he was killed by yet another glaring example of what happens when people in our society see no consequences for their actions. A speeding driver, who it appears, may have been in a street race, apparently blew a red light and T-boned Ng's police car as he was heading to an unrelated call. Jimmy Ng didn't have a chance.

 

The driver of the speeding vehicle was virtually unhurt. He fled the scene in another vehicle; one presumes the car he was racing. Evidently, he had the cojones to drive at breakneck speeds through city streets, but not the backbone to face the damage he had wrought.

 

The Richmond Mounties have charged the man they believe is responsible for the death of Const. Jimmy Ng with criminal negligence causing death. At most, if found guilty, he'll get a short term of imprisonment.

 

Jimmy Ng had set out his whole life to be a police officer. But what he was about was much more than that. He wanted to make a difference. He volunteered as a teenager in coastal search and rescue.

 

Cpl. Bob Rennie was his field trainer at Duncan detachment, Ng's first posting after Regina. He became best friends with Ng and couldn't hold it together at the funeral while delivering comments on a subordinate officer he had grown to respect and admire.

 

The Commissioner of the RCMP, Giuliano Zaccardelli came out from Ottawa for the funeral. He portrayed Ng as "an example of the outstanding young men and women that we have in the RCMP. He affected so many people in such a positive way, so that's what we did today: We celebrated his life. He's a model for all of us to emulate."

 

Well said. And that perhaps is why police funerals haunt me so. Inevitably the person lying in the casket was a model for the rest of society to emulate. They do affect people in a positive way. It's the nature of their job and the nature of the type of individual who answers the call to serve.

 

I was just a young boy, growing up in a suburb of Montreal, when I attended my first police funeral. A couple of days earlier, I was playing ball hockey in a friend's driveway when we heard shots, screams, squealing tires, then shouts. Lots of them.

 

Around the corner, not 200 feet from where we slapped a tennis ball around, Det.-Sgt. Charles Jeary laid in the icy street, already dead from an exchange of gunfire with a couple of bank robbers.

 

The police department Jeary served on was small, maybe 20-25 officers. We knew them all. All the kids did. Det.-Sgt Jeary lived with his family two blocks from the house where I grew up.

 

I remember filing through the town hall where he lay amid a veritable sea of flowers. As we passed the casket, I looked in amazement at the big barrel-chested man lying there, resplendent in a uniform I had never seen him wear, only knowing him as the detective on the force. I remember looking at his hand trying to figure out how they had fixed the damaged thumb hit by one of the robbers' bullets.

 

Years later, as a police officer, I recall standing outside a church in Richmond watching two small children clinging to the legs of their mom, the newly-made widow of Const. Tom Agar, brutally executed by a brain-dead thug named Stephen Lee LeClair. I remember thinking what a steadfast man Agar was in life and what an example to the rest of us.

 

On a damp, windy day in February 1987, I stood with a great many others outside a west-side church and watched the flag-draped coffin of Vancouver Police Sgt. Larry Young being carried from the church. If ever there was an example, an inspiration for the rest of us, it was Larry Young. He was cut down in the prime of his life while a team leader with the Emergency Response Team, shot and killed in a drug raid.

 

Just days earlier, Larry had rescued a baby being held hostage by an armed nutcase. His act of bravery was captured in a photo of him running from the suspect with the baby clutched close to his chest. The photograph ran in newspapers around the world.

 

It takes a special kind of person who answers the call to serve; to run toward danger instead of following the instinctive human reaction and run away from it. To want to make a difference, knowing because of something you did, someone else is better off.

 

I didn't know Const. Jimmy Ng, but I know his type. The world is a little worse off for his loss.

 

-30-

 

 

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