COLUMN: Risking their lives, close to home
It’s one of the toughest things anyone has to deal with – the death of a colleague and co-worker.
For Surrey RCMP, that grim task greeted those who came to work Tuesday morning. One of their own, Const. Adrian Oliver, aged 28 and a three-year veteran, was killed when his unmarked police vehicle collided with a semi-truck at 148 Street and 64 Avenue.
The crash occurred about 5 a.m. Const. Oliver was heading back to the detachment, after working the night shift on general duty.
It sounds like this was simply a tragic accident, but it leaves a huge hole in the hearts of those who knew him, and within the larger RCMP fraternity.
Surrey RCMP is the biggest detachment in the country, and it’s hard for everyone working there to know everybody else. But when I visited the detachment several years ago, I was very impressed with the sense of camaraderie that was quite evident. That kind of working atmosphere is both productive and positive, and in police work, which requires a lot of attention to detail, it’s important.
Staff were wearing blue ribbons at the detachment on Tuesday and there were a lot of tears. It is a tragedy.
Const. Oliver is not the first Surrey RCMP officer to die in the line of duty. There have been at least four others, and their photos greet visitors to the detachment, as they are located near the entrance. The job of a police officer is a dangerous one, and it comes with many risks. But very few RCMP officers would rather be doing other things. They enjoy their jobs.
Const. Oliver came from a police family. His father and brother are both RCMP officers.
On Sunday, a huge contingent of both Surrey and E Division RCMP officers were on hand at Remembrance Day ceremonies at the cenotaph in Cloverdale. They were accompanied by the E Division pipe band.
It was the most impressive show of strength from the RCMP that I have ever seen at Remembrance Day. It is an important day to police, because they too are willing to lay down their lives, just as the military are. They have served in Afghanistan and other theatres of war, but most of the risks they face every day are closer to home, and are just as real.
None of us who were there likely gave even a fleeting thought to the sacrifice that RCMP officers are occasionally called to make. Like the efforts of soldiers, many of the sacrifices were long ago and, in some cases, far away. Even the murder of Surrey RCMP Const. Roger Pierlet, probably the most senseless act involving a police officer in this community, occurred almost 40 years ago. It took place not far from where the Remembrance Day ceremonies were held and, as in this case, happened late at night and close to detachment headquarters.
No one knows when the next tragedy will strike. In this case, it struck very quickly and with terrible force.
E Division commander Deputy Commissioner Craig Callens and Surrey officer in charge Chief Supt. Bill Fordy were both prominent participants at Sunday’s ceremonies. Two days later, they were called on to make statements on behalf of the police about the fatal crash. It wasn’t easy.
The RCMP have been the subject of much criticism in recent years, and while some of that criticism is deserved, the force continues to give outstanding service. Most of its members do a great job in protecting this community.
Surrey is, and has been for a long time, a challenging community to police. Members of Surrey RCMP take the force's motto of “maintiens le droit (defending the law)” very seriously.
The hearts of most Surrey residents go out to the family of Const. Oliver, and to the RCMP in general. You are hurting right now, and we are hurting with you.
Frank Bucholtz writes Thursdays for the Peace Arch News. He is the editor of the Langley Times.