If you see any of your local RCMP officers in the next little while, might I recommend that you be kind and gentle with them? Can I suggest that we all show them they are valued by Castlegar's citizens as they head to work this week, knowing today could be just another day of wading through puke and paperwork, or it could be the day they have to put themselves in the line of fire; that today may see the shift from which they won't come home at all?
Kelly Gyurkovits is a Castlegar man who stole a police squad car last year and struck an RCMP member with it, landing the cop in hospital with a broken foot. He also, this year, evaded police pursuit, sparking a car chase that police ultimately abandoned rather than risk the lives of other motorists on Columbia Avenue.
Gyurkovits was sentenced, Friday, to four years in prison. Unless I misunderstand parole function in this country, I believe that means he'll likely serve less than two years with good behaviour.
Now, I can't speak to whether that sentence was right or fair without flirting with Contempt of Court charges ... and even if I could, I'm not sure what the right reaction would be in this situation. I don't know Gyurkovits at all, and I do know my heart goes out to Gyurkovits' family and loved ones – something's clearly not firing right there, and I wonder if he might be better served by help than by punishment.
I just don't know.
But I do know my thoughts are with our detachment right now.
I wonder what that sentence says to the RCMP member who had to stand fast in an effort to protect the rest of us, while his own squad car was aimed at him and his fate hung in the balance. How did he feel in the seconds before the pain hit, and he knew his life was about to change in a fundamental way? How many nights did he lay awake, haunted by both of the ache of his healing injury and the aftershock of violent assault? What did it cost him, once recovered, to don the red serge again and head back to work – and all the potential peril doing so entails?
I wonder if he feels a minimum of 18 months or thereabouts is adequate retribution for his sacrifice?
I also wonder about all the other cops serving our community.
How about the officer who watched as his/her colleague went down under a car, had to pull a gun and fire, not knowing, as we know now, what the outcome would be, or what fall-out it might bring?
Or the cop who pulls over an ordinary car on an ordinary day, then has to walk up to the driver's door knowing full well the occupants could be a family of upstanding, law-abiding citizens ... or a handful of gun-weilding drug addicts with poor judgement and something to prove.
I wonder if those cops, as they attempt to protect us, feel they're given any real protection at all in return?
I know for myself, every time I cover a high-speed chase, I'm forcibly reminded how often I travel those same routes with my little boy in the car, and how many of my friends and loved ones do likewise.
In most of these cases, no one gets hurt – but that's due more to blind luck than good management on the part of the suspects who initiate the chases in the first place.
What if they did kill me, or cripple my boy, or injure my best friend/father/boss? Sentencing would sure look different then - but should it? Should we really wait until such consequences are paid in full before we react to the threat - to all of us - inherent in any such behaviour?
I don't know.
I honestly don't have any answers to offer here.
The only things I do know are that we should think about these questions, and what potential solutions lie behind them, seriously and at length, no matter how distasteful we find the subject material.
And I know for sure our Castlegar cops deserve to be treated with extra care and attention this week.