Sacrifice was a word oft repeated during Monday’s memorial service for RCMP constables Joseph Keck, Donald Weisgerber and Gordon Pedersen.
The trio “paid the ultimate sacrifice” in keeping the city and its citizens safe on June 18, 1962, Staff Sgt. Grant Learned told the trio’s widows and family, along with citizens and members of the law enforcement community gathered outside Kamloops RCMP headquarters to pay tribute 50 years later.
They were so young — Keck 25, Pedersen and Weisgerber 23 — with their whole lives ahead of them, but lost it all while protecting the public from the troubled George Booth, a man described by Supt. Yves Lacasse as suffering from mental illness, armed and confrontational.
Booth shot and killed the three before being taken down by Cpl. Jack White.
As Mayor Peter Milobar remarked, much has changed in 50 years, but the dangerous nature of police work hasn’t. He expressed hope that we won’t see many such incidents played out in the future but that doesn’t seem likely when your work involves daily dealings with desperate, sometimes dangerous people engaged in actions that run contrary to the law.
Officers these days are armed with much more knowledge about handling individuals with mental health issues, but there are also a lot more addiction issues than 50 years ago that present a whole different level of risk.
Like the wives of officers Keck, Weisgerber and Pedersen, the families of police today never know what their loved ones will be forced to confront during their work day, never know if they’ll return home that night, have no assurance that their children will know their fathers.
While police and their families choose not to focus on this part of the job, it is nonetheless omnipresent in their lives.
This service, this sacrifice, allows the rest of us to safely and freely enjoy our own existence. As we honour the three officers who fell 50 years ago in the line of service, we also must remember to respect and give thanks to active law enforcement who continue to make our lives safe today.
We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.