Alberta’s newest top cop says 2014 was a dangerous one for RCMP

When Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan thinks about the bravery of an officer in St. Paul, Alta., last May, she’s overcome with emotion.

Ryan rushed to the hospital as soon as she heard a female officer had been seriously injured during a shootout with a gunman in the northern Alberta town. At the hospital, more details about the deadly incident began to unfold.

“The one officer in the pickup truck with her legs injured, she was trapped, she couldn’t get out of the vehicle, however it was an ongoing incident and he was still shooting at police,” said Ryan, in a year-end interview at Edmonton’s K-Division with the Edmonton Sun.

“Another officer ran over to her to try and free her from the truck, but she said ‘You can’t, I’m pinned, take cover.’ He wouldn’t leave her. Instead he draped himself over top of her. It makes me proud.”

The drama began around 6:15 p.m. when Rev. Gilbert Dasna was shot in the chest at the door of the rectory where he lived. He was taken to hospital, but died a short time later.

Officers at the nearby St. Paul RCMP detachment heard the gunshots outside and saw a black Dodge pickup fleeing the parking lot. Police chased the vehicle into downtown.

The truck driver fired a shot, striking a male officer, who was a passenger in a police car. He then rammed into another police truck, injuring the female officer inside. When other officers arrived at the scene, the suspect started shooting at them, prompting an exchange of gunfire.

A third officer suffered minor injuries in the hail of bullets that eventually left 55-year-old John Carlos Quadros dead.

It wasn’t the first time in 2014 that officers were seriously hurt on the job.

Six days into the new year, Cpl. Travis Ogilvie was run over by a truck driven by a man who exchanged gunfire with five RCMP officers at a residence near Tofield.

Ogilvie underwent four hours of surgery at an Edmonton hospital and later said such incidents are just part of the job.

Every day, Ryan said, it seems an average of two police officers are assaulted in Alberta in some way or another. She’s not sure what’s behind the increased violence, but it’s causing her concern.

“Those are the things that keep me up at night, is officer safety, trying to keep the public safe,” said Ryan, who made history when she became the first woman to assume command of Alberta’s RCMP at the beginning of the year. She oversees the 112 detachments in the province and more than 4,000 RCMP employees.

Growing pains

Alberta RCMP Deputy Commissioner Marianne Ryan describes her first year on the job as a challenge she’s embraced.

One of the highlights since she became the first woman to assume command of the province’s Mounties was the presence of the RCMP musical ride, which was dedicated to Alberta in 2014. The ride, said Ryan, reinforces the pride that communities have in the RCMP.

But one of her biggest concerns is the amount of traffic fatalities on Alberta highways, along with the high number of people who continue to drink and drive, despite numerous public education campaigns and tougher laws. Ryan said police have increased enforcement and are doing everything they can, but continue to encounter too many fatal collisions.

Keeping up with Alberta’s growth is another challenge, she said, especially when it comes to attracting new recruits in a booming economy filled with high-paying jobs.

Ryan estimates between 100 and 150 RCMP members either retire or leave the service in Alberta every year. Out of every class of approximately 30 RCMP graduates, Alberta gets between 10 to 15 of the new recruits. Many of them are from Ontario.

“We want to attract people that are looking for what the RCMP can offer. We offer just a wide range of policing opportunities that is different from Calgary and Edmonton,” said Ryan, who oversees 112 detachments and over 4,000 employees. “I think it really is a career like no other police service can offer.”

Mounties injuries on the job in 2014 include:

* January 2014: Cpl. Travis Ogilvie was run over by a truck driven by a man who exchanged gunfire with five RCMP officers at a residence near Tofield. Ogilvie was left with several broken bones. One of the bullets in the gunfight grazed the upper arm of a Vegreville officer also at the scene.

* May 2014: A female officer suffered serious injuries when she became pinned in her truck after John Carlos Quadros rammed into the vehicle in downtown St. Paul. Two male officers were also treated for injuries — one from bullets and one from shattered glass — sustained during the shoot out with Quadros.

* November 2014: A St. Paul Mountie was punched and his marked RCMP vehicle was stolen when he tried to arrest a man wanted for domestic violence. The suspect punched the officer several times in the head before hopping into the driver’s seat of the police truck, dragging the officer a short distance.

pamela.roth@sunmedia.ca

@SUNpamelaroth

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