A ceremony was held Sunday afternoon at Calgary city hall to mark the 22nd annual Police and Peace Officer Memorial Day to remember Alberta officers who have died in the line of duty.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, the public ceremony was replaced with a smaller, livestreamed event at the Police Officers and Firefighters Tribute Plaza.
After the ceremonies, a “vehicular march past” featured police and peace officer vehicles with their emergency equipment activated along Macleod Trail in front of city hall.
Lt.-Gov. Salma Lakhani, Premier Jason Kenney, Calgary Police Chief Mark Neufeld and Sgt. Curtis Hoople with the Alberta Federation of Police Associations were at the event.
“The circumstances of their deaths demonstrate there is no such thing as a routine call,” said Neufeld.
“Every time police or peace officers put on a uniform, they enter into unpredictable environments on behalf of all of us. We rely on their skill, their ability and their humanity to make split-second and critical decisions — some of these involve life and death without the luxury of hindsight, without the luxury of good information and without the luxury of time.”
Maryanne Pope, the widow of Calgary Const. John Petropoulos, laid a wreath at the ceremony. Pope remembers her husband as a happy guy who loved his work.
“He absolutely loved being a police officer and he missed out on an awful lot,” she said.
In September 2000, Petropoulos was investigating a break and enter at a warehouse in southeast Calgary.
He fell through a false ceiling and suffered a fatal brain injury. There was no safety railing to warn him of the danger.
“I am much happier now,” Pope said.
“Twenty years have passed. It took me a long time to heal. Grieving was really tough after John’s death. I lost my soulmate, my husband, my best friend.”
The John Petropoulos Memorial Fund was set up shortly after his death. The fund has helped raise awareness about workplace safety issues facing emergency responders.
The organization strives to eliminate preventable workplace fatalities and injuries to emergency responders by educating the public about its role in helping to keep essential workers safe on the job.
“Now that I am standing here 20 years later, what breaks my heart is the fact 20,000 Canadians have died as a result of an injury or occupational illness since John’s death in 2000. So we obviously have work to do,” said Pope, who is an author and now lives on Vancouver Island.
Pope said that she’s encouraged by all the good that has come out of the tragedy. She said the memorial on Sunday comes at time when police officers are facing intense pressure.
“It’s a very tough time for police officers and I know a lot of unfortunate and horrible incidents have happened in North America, but at the end of the day, there are so many incredible police officers, many of whom are still in my life, who are impacting lives in such a positive way,” Pope said.
The Calgary Police Service will also host a private event on Tuesday, Sept. 29, at the Westwinds chapel to honour Petropoulos.