It was a day of sadness and honour as the name of a Toronto police officer was added to the Ontario Police Memorial.
Constable John Zivcic died in hospital after being involved in a traffic collision last November.
His life and those of other provincial police officers who have died in the line of duty were celebrated at the 15th annual remembrance ceremony on May 4.
“John served the people of Toronto with honour and we join with his family in remembering his loss,” Lieutenant Governor David Onley said. “He belongs to the greater police family, as do all those whose names are inscribed in this place… It’s fitting that they are being honoured in perpetuity at this monument in the heart of the city. Whenever we come here, we are reminded of all those who gave their lives to protect us and we are also reminded that they are heroes in life and not death.”
The names of the 254 police officers who have died on the job are inscribed on a granite wall at the Queen’s Park memorial site.
“More than just their names, it’s critical that each of us remember that what they have given us is a sacrifice that must be honoured, respected and cherished,” said Ontario Police Memorial Foundation president Mike Abbott. “…Our hearts are heavy with John’s loss and today we come together to reflect on the legacy he has left behind. His death was a terrible tragedy and this ceremony will ensure his service is never forgotten. He was truly a hero in life.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne said the people of Ontario will always remember Zivcic and other officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice.
“To become a police officer is an extraordinary act of courage,” she noted. “They commit to serve and protect the people of Ontario no matter what. Whether it’s helping victims of crime, tending to the scene of an emergency or keeping our communities safe, such dedication takes incredible strength of character. It takes fortitude to face unimaginable fears, to run towards danger knowing the risks, to comfort people in their darkest hour and then to do it all again the next day despite the emotional and physical upheaval this job demands.”
Wynne noted that Zivcic demonstrated exceptional skills and dedication during his six years with the Service.
“To the people he served in his community, he was kind and caring,” she said. “He always went the extra mile to make sure they felt safe and protected. As a son, brother, uncle and friend, he was the best that any could find. His courage, compassion and bravery made Ontario a better place and we would never forget the sacrifice that he made for this province.”
Led by 22 Division unit commander Superintendent Frank Bergen, Zivcic’s “B” platoon attended the memorial.
“It’s important for all of us to be standing with the Zivcic family,” said Bergen. “We want to be here for them and let them know we have their back.”
About a month ago, Bergen asked Detective Steve Laramy to be the Master of Ceremony at the memorial.
“I was quite honoured,” said Laramy, who joined the Service 17 years ago.
He and Zivic were on B platoon for almost five years.
“John always greeted you with a big smile and a pat on the back,” Laramy recalled. “I work in plainclothes and most of the officers call me by my first name, except John. He was always respectful and when he saw me, he would always greet me with a ‘good morning Detective, good afternoon Detective and good evening Detective’. That was John. The more I told him to call me Steve, the more he would call me ‘Detective’.”
Constable Suzanne Fox-Vignarajah paid tribute to Zivcic by laying a red rose close near his name on the wall.
“John was a big guy with a huge heart,” said the foot patrol officer, who joined the Service four years ago. “He always had a smile on his face. He was just an amazing guy.”
Constable Doug Leonard has attended every remembrance event since joining the Service in 2006.
“I worked with John in Traffic and he was a really good cop and person,” said Leonard, an Auxiliary officer prior to joining the Service.
For Constable Dave Purvis, it was the first time he was at the memorial. He and Zivcic were on the same platoon.
“John was incredibly hardworking and generous,” said Purvis. “He was a good friend and I will always remember him.”
Zivcic’s mother Vlatka, brother Tom and his wife Mira and sister Angie and her husband Chris Martin attended the ceremony.
“We are simply overwhelmed by all the love and support we have received from the Toronto Police family and the broader community,” said Martin. “We now have a greater understanding of how much of a family Toronto Police is.”
Constable William Boyd was the first Toronto officer to die in the line of duty. While transporting prisoners who attempted to escape, he was fatally shot by one of the escapees.
Of the 41 city officers who made the ultimate sacrifice, Constable Laura Ellis is the only female to have died on the job.
She and her partner were responding to an emergency call on February 18, 2002 when they collided with another vehicle at Brimley Rd. & Huntingwood Dr., on her last shift before joining Durham Regional Police Service. She died at the scene.
Constable Pietro Grande, who was in the same recruiting class with Ellis, has attended every remembrance event since her death.
“We joined the Service together and we started at 42 Division on the same platoon,” said Grande, now posted at 43 Division. “Laura was a phenomenal cop and woman and she had a very bright future.”
For Constable Tommy Cornett of 52 Division, the memorial was a reminder of the sacrifice that Mike Irwin – a family member – made.
In February 1972, Irwin and his partner – Detective Doug Sinclair – were confronted by a tenant with a long criminal history who was facing eviction on that fateful day 42 years ago.
As the 32 Division officers entered the premises, the armed tenant burst through the doors, firing several shots. Both officers died later in hospital.
“This is my sixth year coming here and it’s important for me to pay tribute to a relative and the other officers who have given their lives while on the job,” said Cornett whose wife Helene – a call dispatcher – is Irwin’s grand-daughter.
Ontario Progressive Conservative Party leader Tim Hudak and mayoral candidate John Tory also attended the memorial.
“I just think the job of police officers is so important and it requires so much courage,” Tory said. “When people gave their lives and even for those who haven’t, it’s a good way to say thank you and to acknowledge the contributions they made or are making.”