A group of police widows have been attending funerals for Canadian officers killed in the line of duty, there to support the new widows entering their ranks. But with one funeral after another lately, it's taking an emotional toll.
Since September 2022, 10 Canadian officers have been killed, nine of them murdered.
“This is not the Canada that I started policing 35 years ago,” she said.
Orr and other widows, officers, and police association leaders talked to The Epoch Times about the decline in respect for the profession, and even the villainization of police.
BarriersThey also spoke of a growing barrier between police and the general public. For example, the Toronto Police Service is too short-staffed to have officers out patrolling neighbourhoods as they used to—on bikes, face-to-face, and interacting with the community—says Toronto Police Association President John Reid.
“I think it's to everyone's detriment … when the only time we ever see police is when they need to arrest somebody, or in dealing with a violent crime,” Reid said.
However, the city's manpower can barely keep up even with those emergency calls, he said, noting that 10 years ago the city had about 5,600 officers, while now it has around 5,000. Yet the city's population has swelled.
“I think the more we pull police officers, uniformed police officers, out of communities, the less comfortable people are with them,” Reid said.
He encourages Canadians to talk to officers when they see them. “They want to be part of the community, and I think it's important to break down those barriers, either real or perceived," he said.
Steve Flanagan, retired from the Ottawa Police Service, said he used to love getting out on his bike. It was especially important to him to go into neighbourhoods where there are more troubled youth. "The kids loved talking to us,” he said.
Disdain, Lack of RespectFlanagan said many in city halls across the country also have a disdain for the police.
“We've just gone away from people actually showing respect to the police and respecting what police officers do," he said.
Cox said this lack of respect, along with the wide availability of firearms, has likely contributed to the spike in officer deaths.
“It’s as if there’s an actual attack on the policing community. We have never seen this before in Canada,” he said.
Reflecting on his earlier days in the RCMP, Comeau says “criminals weren’t as armed as they are now."
“That includes bikers and other gangs—I mean, now everybody is armed to the teeth." He said it's about concealable weapons, mostly smuggled from the United States, and not the assault-style weapons the government has banned.
He said the lack of respect for officers is exacerbated by social media, where it's easy to spread videos of police using force and make them look bad. “It’s hard to arrest people and make it look nice," he said.
So many more of the suspects being arrested are high on drugs now too, he said. The reality is, the police often struggle.
'Absolutely Shocking'On May 7, the Ontario Police Memorial Foundation held its annual ceremony to remember police who have fallen. They had far more deaths to mourn this year than usual, and it was just the next morning that Mueller was killed.
“It's absolutely shocking to speak about how many officers have been killed in the line of duty [recently],” said foundation president Jason Tomlinson.
But the police widows—they call themselves SOLE sisters—say people shouldn't view these officers only as a statistic or another name in a news article.
"People are starting to become desensitized," Orr said.
Shelley Atkinson, another SOLE member, lost her husband, John Atkinson, in 2006. They were high school sweethearts. John wanted to be an officer from the time he could talk. He never wavered, and finally achieved his dream when he joined the Windsor Police Service at the age of 23. He was also a carpenter on the side.
"He was wonderful with wood," she said.
Atkinson left several projects unfinished when he was shot to death at a gas station. He had approached two young men who possessed crack cocaine. One of them—an 18-year-old who had gotten an illegal gun from the United States two weeks earlier—shot him in the face.
Their two children were aged 7 and 9 at the time. Atkinson recalled how there was a birthday party planned for her 7-year-old daughter that day. When she came home to find the house full of people, she thought it was part of her party. Atkinson cried recalling how she had to tell her little girl what had happened.