Heroic police officers remind community what service is all about

By Robert Washburn

At a time when policing seems to be more about politics than safety or service, it is easy to forget the job those on the frontlines do.

Northumberland MP Rick Norlock rose in the House of Commons to honour two local police officers for acts of bravery last Friday. Sergeant Delkie Curtis and Sergeant Roger Thomas were given the Governor General’s Medal of Bravery award on Oct. 28, 2011 by his Excellency David Johnson, Norlock said.

The Medal of Bravery is one of the highest awards in the country and one of three Canadian Bravery decorations, Created in 1972, it is a gift of Queen Elizabeth, hence given out by the Governor General, to those who perform acts of bravery in hazardous circumstances.

On Oct. 6, 2007, while on patrol, Sergeant Thomas spotted smoke coming from an apartment in the wee hours of the morning. The fire department was contacted immediately. Meanwhile, both officers quickly entered the building, ran up the stairs, alerting residents along the way. When they came to the door with smoke billowing from it, they broke it down.

Without hesitating and no proper equipment on hand, the pair crawled through the dense, black smoke in search of victims. They found a woman in the bedroom and brought her outside. Paramedics treated her. Both of them were treated for smoke inhalation.

There is no way to explain what drives dedicated officers to do such acts. Sure, there is probably some academic somewhere with a theory. But, the selflessness, courage and devotion to public service of these two men deserve the attention of the community and public gratitude.

But these kinds of acts by local police should not be surprising.

In October 2010, Sergeant Bryan Wood, of the Port Hope police force, was honoured with the Star of Courage and the Media of Bravery for a similar rescue in the early hours of Sept. 9. 2007.  Wood and Constable Gerry Marino pulled a man and two women to safety. Still, another woman refused to leave until she found her cat. Wood went into the build to search for her. He found her and pulled her out.

If that was not enough, Wood also rescued an eight-year old boy from a burning home on Sept. 8, 2006, almost two years earlier.

It is easy to get bogged down in ideological debates over policing, especially as Port Hope council and police services board undertake a review of services. The same holds true for Cobourg and Hamilton Township, who are also negotiating a deal currently.

We forget the incredible sacrifice these men and women make on our behalf on a daily basis. These officers are examples of the professionalism of the frontline people, who are prepared to give their lives to ensure our safety and protect us from harm.

It is also important to remember these same people who risk their lives for us are our neighbours, friends and family. We share the experience of living in West Northumberland, taking pride in our community.

Yes, it is important to debate budgets, use taxes wisely and hold public institutions accountable. But, we must balance it with a good dose of respect and wisdom. As these public debates move forward, it is important to not allow the rhetoric blind us.

First published: Nov. 23, 2011