Deep Blue Sea

January 20, 2011

A halted police procession during Sgt Ryan Russell's funeral.

This past Tuesday, at 11:30 am, quite by chance I found myself on University Ave. walking into a sea of blue. Literally, thousands of officers from uniformed, to mounties (a bit of red), to everything in between were marching south down the avenue from Queen’s Park. This was the day of Sgt. Ryan Russell’s funeral and despite an abundance of press about this tragic event, I didn’t know what I was walking into. I often avoid reading the newspaper, especially the front page, (sad but true) so I hadn’t heard University Ave would be closed for a few hours for to the funeral set for 2pm. I decided to stand by for awhile to pay my respects. It was a melancholy moment. Many people stood along the quiet sidelines. All you could hear was the swish of jacketed, swaying arms and the foot fall of the officers’ boots as they marched toward the Metro Convention Convention Centre, until suddenly they stopped, parted and formed lines along either side of the road.

I couldn’t help recalling this past June, during the G20 Summit, when I stood only a block away on a once again closed University Ave. Although the two events couldn’t be more different form each other, it was be difficult not to compare. I wondered if the city hadn’t gone too far on this Tuesday, with all the road closures and traffic related diversions due to the event. But, I’m glad Sgt Russell’s funeral played out the way it did. I wasn’t able to stay for the entire process but felt moved by the presence of so many people, civilians and officer, coming together to pay their respects both to Sgt Russell and, symbolically, to the men and women who put their safety on the line for us daily. The Toronto police force has had some pretty bad press over the last year, and rightly so. But it’s important to remember that the force is more than just a poorly chosen event and that dedicated officers like Sgt Russell are giving it their all in helping make Toronto a safe place to live.

For additional reading about the funeral click here and here.

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