Death of local officer strikes cord in community

First published:
May 19, 2004

A Police Officer’s Prayer:
Lord, I ask for courage —
Courage to face and conquer my own fears…
Courage to take me where others will not go…
I ask for strength —
Strength of body to protect others,
and strength of spirit to lead others…
I ask for dedication —
Dedication to my job, to do it well,
Dedication to my community, to keep it safe…
And please, Lord, through it all, be by my side.
— from Ellis Police Department, Kansas

There is a reason many of us live in a small community like Cobourg or Port Hope. It is the sense of family one feels when going to the grocery store or hardware or coffee shop where you are greeted like a friend. It is the way you feel a sense of belonging. Where a neighbourhood is not a historic designation on a street sign, but a real place where people smile and wave. It is about conversations in the schoolyard between parents and their children.

This past weekend our family sustained some tragic news. Cobourg Constable Chris Garrett, 39, was killed in the line of duty and an 18-year old young man, Troy Davey, is facing first-degree murder charges related to the death.

And just like any family, we feel an overwhelming sense of loss. As a community we mourn. Constable Garrett’s family, his wife, son and stepdaughter, are not alone because we all share in the pain. Some feel it more than others. But there is a strong sense of this communal grief over the past few days.

It was found in the conversations with others. No matter where people were from, Cobourg or Port Hope, it was the main topic of discussion. People, at first, searching for details about what happened. Then information starting flowing and the extent of what took place emerged.

It was amazing to hear a number of neighbours and friends sharing their connection to Constable Garrett. One person knew his wife. Another met him at a social occasion. Others had friends who knew his relatives.

Then, there were the two neighbours on our street who lowered their flags to half-mast out of respect. There are countless other examples.

Grief is universal. And when we experience a death in a family, there is always a tremendous amount of emotional pain. No doubt Constable Garrett’s family, friends and his fellow officers are suffering right now. They should not do it alone. In some ways, we must share this.

It is interesting to watch as people in the community go through the five identified steps of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.

It was impossible to count the number of times people would comment by saying, “Nobody thought this would ever happen here” or “our community is still safe”. Obvious denial.

As time passed, there were some who express anger. It was made public at the court house Monday where a dozen or so people showed up to jeer Mr. Davey as he arrived for his bail hearing.

More than anything, it is the pall that has fallen over our community. The sadness and melancholy pervades.

If nothing else, we can all relate to him. He was a family man. He took great pride in his work and was a leader among his peers, respected for his dedication and skill. He was generous and shared his knowledge freely. He laughed. He cried. He felt joy and sorrow. He was no different than any of us.

One wonders what will happen next. It will be a while before we reach the final stage of acceptance, of integrating our collective loss.

Come Thursday, many people will join us for the funeral: police officers from other forces, dignitaries and guests. And while they will hold the centre stage for a while, the people of this community will stand with them to remember and grieve because we have lost a member of our family.

Here is a poem written by a Vancouver Police Officer:

Although my body may be gone
Inside of you my spirit lives on
Beside you when you walk the beat
In the rain and in the heat
Once I stood where you stand now
Once I stood where you stand now
I wore the uniform you wear now
Once I walked the lonely beat
In the rain and in the heat
Once I held the torch in my hand
To fight the darkness in our land
And since I am no longer here
It is up to you to fight the fear
Fear of darkness and of crime
To keep us safe in this time
And now this torch I pass to you
Fight the darkness is what you must do

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