06/05/2014 09:32 EDT | Updated 06/16/2017 01:02 EDT

RCMP Shootings Remind Us Officers Are Very, Very Human


I can recite their names: Peter Schiemann, Brock Myrol, Leo Johnston, and Anthony Gordon. After more than a decade covering countless news stories, their names are still etched in my mind.

The four constables were gunned down at a rural property in Mayerthorpe, Alta. in 2005, in what looked like a routine investigation into a marijuana grow-op and stolen car parts.

I remember the RCMP call into our Edmonton newsroom, informing us there would be a news conference soon in the town a 90-minute drive away. The normally tight-lipped media officer let slip, "It's bad. Really bad."

The outpouring of grief for the four officers that followed gripped the country. I got to learn more about the four men from their friends and family. Rev. Don Schiemann, in particular, graciously spent an afternoon with me in his office. It wasn't for any report. Just a proud parent sharing stories of his son, Peter.

As news of three RCMP officers being killed in Moncton sinks in, my mind goes back to those days and weeks. For days, Mounties struggling with their own emotions faced our cameras and our endless questions.

In one of the first scrums after the shooting, the RCMP spokesman at the time, Cpl. Wayne Oakes, was completely ashen.

We had worked together countless times. No matter the request or case, Wayne had always been professional, a straight-laced, stick to the message kind of guy. He'd probably make for a tough poker opponent. But that day, he was shocked to the core.

I was crouched near the front, holding a microphone. You probably couldn't see this on TV that night, as he was surrounded by reporters, cameramen, and photographers. But he was holding some paper, and his hands were trembling.

Const. Damien Theriault was the public face of the New Brunswick RCMP on Wednesday night as he stood in front of the media -- and was beamed live around the world -- to announce the deaths of his colleagues, his friends. Visibly emotional, he had to pause several times before he eventually had to end the news conference.

They had little time to process their loss, as they continued to focus on their jobs.

And their jobs are unbelievable. From one minute to the next, they go from being role models in our schools and partners in our communities (especially smaller ones), to fighting bad guys with unpredictable agendas.

We eulogize these brave men and women after they sacrifice their lives protecting us. But what about the rest of the time?

We in the media grumble about not having enough access or details in an RCMP investigation.

The public is quick to jump on stories of RCMP misconduct or impropriety, filling online comment boards with dismissive one-liners.

You curse silently (or loudly) when you get ticketed on the highway.

Do we take them for granted? You bet we do. It shouldn't take blasts of violence and evil for us to recognize the risks they face daily and voluntarily. And when those risks are realized, we should remember that these tough, uniformed cops are very, very human.