By Dale Woodard on January 7, 2021.
As the Lethbridge Police Service continues to rally in support of a fallen officer, members of the local detachment are also gathering support for each other in their time of grieving.
Members of the LPS were in Calgary Monday as part of the drive-past for Sergeant Andrew Harnett of the Calgary Police Service, who was killed during a traffic stop New Year’s Eve.
“We’ve had a pretty tough week in Alberta and we have a couple of events coming up with the death of Sergeant Andrew Harnett in Calgary,” said Constable Shawn Davis, who serves as the Regimental Sergeant Major for the LPS. “We went up on Monday to pay respects to the Calgary Police Service members and did a drive-past with all the emergency services and all the police services across the province just to show support that we have for their service. For the funeral this weekend, we’ll be sending members back up for that to, again, show our support and solidarity with them as they grieve.”
Back home in Lethbridge, Davis and police chaplain Aaron Moore are helping local members mourn the loss of their fellow officer in a dangerous line of work that can weigh on both officers and their families.
“We always talk about the thin blue line we have in policing, the brothers and sisters we have and unfortunately there are deaths in this job,” said Davis during a press conference Wednesday morning at the LPS headquarters.
“Our members across the world and across Canada and Alberta put ourselves in situations where most people don’t want to be and unfortunately with that we lose members. It’s extremely sad. I always tell my members when that happens in the States we all grieve. When it happens here in Canada we grieve even more and then it gets closer and closer to home.”
Moore, who is also part of the Canadian Police Chaplain Association and started with the LPS in September of 2017, said there is a supportive and spiritual side to his role at the LPS.
“On the supportive what that has practically looked like through this incident has been to reach out to our members, first through an email expressing my support and condolences for the incident that took place with Sargeant Harnett and to offer my services my services as chaplain and encourage them to lean into our service resources,” said Moore, who also takes Tuesday afternoons to visit with LPS members and simply check in with them. “After that it’s been to reach out to members through Facebook messenger, emailing or texting, different ways to reach out and see how they’re doing and realizing there are many different connections from Lethbridge up to Calgary between the services to Sergeant Harnett.”
On the spiritual side, Moore said he’s available to pray with members or counsel them at their wish.
“So, if they want that they can come to me. Over the past few days, we’ve been leaning in with our members and making sure they’re OK and giving them space to grieve and tell their stories and share their connections back to Sergeant Harnett.”
The City of Lethbridge has lost two officers in the line of duty over the years.
Coincidentally, they died on the same date, 51 years apart.
Acting Sergeant Paul Smith died in the line of duty on June 10, 1913 – his first day as acting sergeant – when he was electrocuted after coming into contact with an exposed wire of an electric light at the intersection of 3 Avenue and 9 Street South.
On June 10, 1964, Constable Calvin Lamonte Byam died in a rescue attempt during severe flooding when he attempted to cross the river valley on horseback to evacuate a small island where several people were living in a hut, but was swept away and drowned.
The duo are commemorated on the Wall of Honour on the second floor of LPS headquarters.
“We’ve been trying to find research on Paul Smith,” said Davis. “He only worked here for eight months and was ex-military and an ex-North West Mounted Police Officer. We’ve had two officers die here in our city. It’s been a long time since and I pray every day and I hope every day we never have to go through this.”
Davis, who is in his 19th year of policing and also has 14 years of military experience, said he talks to his wife and children about his job.
“My father was in the military, so I kind of knew that aspect, but I don’t know what my wife goes through and I don’t know what my children go through. I can imagine and guess, and I’ve talked to them about it,” he said. “But we all go to work every day, it doesn’t matter what line of work we’re in. We give our spouse a kiss and our kids a kiss and we tell our friends how much we care about them and some of us don’t come back and that’s the last time we had. That could be in any job out there, but in our job, there are times we’re putting ourselves out there.”
Davis noted the protests against policing and calls to defund the police over the past year, but said when he went to Calgary for the CPS and Harnett, he saw thousands of people in the community come out to show support for the officers.
“I know here in Lethbridge we have the same support,” he said.
“We have a great city. So, when we see the in media about defunding the police and ‘We don’t want this’ we have to remind ourselves that’s a very small portion, the squeaky wheel. The majority of people, especially here in Lethbridge, are very supportive and great with our service and respect that. We’re very thankful to have that.”
Moore said police officers are the ones running toward the danger that anybody else would be running away from.
“So, there’s this reality where it’s like ‘This could have happened to me,” he said. “There’s a sadness. This is a very tight family here in Lethbridge and across the world (with) police officers. So when a brother or sister falls in the line of duty it impacts them deeply.
“It’s a great opportunity to come alongside and express support, but also gratitude.
“It’s huge because at the end of the day our officers are human beings. They read the newspapers, they see the social media and they feel the criticisms.
“We know that’s a small part of our community. It’s a loud part at times, but it’s a small part. Unfortunately, it happens at times like this, but we see it other times, the gratitude that’s passed forward and it lifts the service. They feel that, they embrace it and it strengthens the service. This (Harnett) was unfortunate, but I would encourage our community to express gratitude forward. We need to do that for our first responders.”