The last 24 hours have been bad ones for Toronto Police officers and for the city.
Toronto Police Sergeant Ryan Russell was killed and another constable injured when trying to stop a manic who stole a snowplough and took it on a rampage through a number of downtown neighbourhoods.
The night before, a Toronto police officer was injured by a radical leftist thug at a protest against the Jewish Defence League.
Toronto police officers are good men and women doing a difficult job. They spend their days and nights working to help the citizens of this city and often risk their lives to do so.
It's a hard job because a huge percentage of the people they deal with are distressed by crimes perpetrated against them, or are aggravated and in many cases are violent. Think about how often you have to deal with something like that at your workplace. If you're the average person, the answer will be rarely or never.
Having to deal with that kind of pressure and responsibility is a difficult burden, and Toronto's cops overwhelmingly bear it with courage and grace.
As a young child, I grew up with cops around. My father had many friends on the force in 51 Division and they were friendly, wickedly funny men who were uniformly (no pun) decent, honorable Canadians. One of my favorite childhood memories is when my dad's friend, Officer John Little, a large man known by the moniker of his reverse namesake from Sherwood Forest, much to my shock, actually let me hold his service revolver when I asked him.
I used to ask him just about every time I saw him and the refusal was so consistent that the whole question of, "Can I hold your gun?" was more of a ritual than a genuine inquiry. But for some reason, on this occasion, he decided I was ready.
For a five year-old, it was an ebullient thrill to watch him remove the bullets and then pass the revolver to my anxiously waiting hands. In my mind, I was going to be Steve McGarrett and wield the gun like an expert TV show cop. What happened was that as soon I took hold of the gun, both my hands dropped to an immediate 180 degrees. The real thing was a heck of a lot heavier than the gun from my Lone Ranger cap gun set.
Like any other kid, I grew up on TV shows and movies where police shootouts were weekly, if not daily occurrences, at least in that fictional world. In the real one, it was surprising to hear that most of the policemen I knew never fired their weapons once in the line of duty. Most had only had to remove their pistols from their holsters only once or twice over lengthy careers.
Toronto was a smaller, safer city back then.
When I was a kid, police I knew used to encourage me to say hi or at least smile at passing cops. They said they appreciated the friendly gesture from the people they were there to protect and serve. It's something I still do and think we all should.
There are some miscreants who view the police only as impediments to their ability to commit crimes. Incredibly, there are still narcissistic, nitwit cultists who think of police as "fascist pigs who are instruments of state oppression."
The policemen and women of Toronto are honourable, brave individuals who are risking their lives for us and who deserve our appreciation. Today's events were a tragic reminder of that.