Const. Pietro Grande hasn’t missed an Ontario Police Memorial (OPM) ceremony since his friend and colleague Const. Laura Ellis was killed in the line of duty 18 years ago.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual ceremony was held on May 3 with pipers playing Amazing Grace (Facebook.com/HeroesInLife).
The Ontario Police Memorial Foundation has initiated a social media campaign that encourages supporters to play or sing Amazing Grace, while practicing social distancing, and post to their social media accounts using #HeroesInLife. For full details visit the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation Blog CeremonyofRemembrance.ca/AmazingGrace.
The architectural illumination of the CN Tower will be done in blue light on May 3 to honour the fallen officers.
Though not physically present at Queen’s Park to pay tribute to fallen provincial officers, Grande was there in spirit.
“By being not together doesn’t mean we don’t come together to remember and honour them the way they should be,” said Grande, who is the Toronto Police Association Director of Member Benefits. “My hope is that this is a one-off and we will be back on the first Sunday next May to pay tribute.”
Of the 41 city officers who died in the line of duty, Ellis is the only female.
The married mother 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.
For Const. Michelle Flannery and her husband, Const. Dave Wells who is with the 53 Division Community Response Unit, the tribute is special.
Flannery’s grandfather – Michael Irwin – and his partner Doug Sinclair were killed in the line of duty in February 1972 after being confronted by a tenant with a long criminal history who was facing eviction on that fateful day 48 years ago.
As the 32 Division officers entered the premises, the armed tenant burst through the doors, firing several shots. Irwin was hit in the head and Sinclair was shot twice in the chest.
“Even though a large number of police officers weren’t there to remember their fallen comrades, it was still important for us to take the time to recognize the occasion on a virtual platform,” said Flannery, who is assigned to Corporate Communications.
A total of 266 Ontario Police officers have lost their lives on the job.
Constable William Boyd was the first Toronto officer to die in the line of duty in 1901. He was fatally shot by an escapee while transporting prisoners.