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Home News ‘We’re human, too:’ Wreath laying ceremony at Prince Albert gravesites reflects risks of policing

‘We’re human, too:’ Wreath laying ceremony at Prince Albert gravesites reflects risks of policing

‘We’re human, too:’ Wreath laying ceremony at Prince Albert gravesites reflects risks of policing
Current and former members of the Prince Albert Police Service lay a wreath at the grave of Cst. Matthew Kwasnica, a former Prince Albert police officer who died while investigating a car accident in 1956. -- PAPS/Submitted

The Prince Albert Police Service gathered on Wednesday to lay wreaths at the graves of former officers who died while they were active members.

Four of them—Allan Telfer, Eddie Banman, Garry Drake, and Tim Ballantyne—died outside of work. The other, 23-year-old Cst. Matthew Kwasnica, died while on duty. Kwasnica was electrocuted while investigating a car accident in 1956.

Wes Stubbs, a retired member involved in the ceremony, said the police laid wreaths every year while he was chief in the 1980s.

For him, honouring these former members reflects the dangers of the job.

“A lot of these people had their lives shortened because they had a dangerous career. Doesn’t matter whether you’re in a small city or a big city,” said Stubbs.

“It’s not getting any better, but they know when they get sworn in as a police officer that they are going to be at risk.”

Stubbs knows this all too well.

He recalled being alone in his patrol car, responding to a shooting in the city’s east end.

“I turned the lights out and he come out in front of the house. He saw the car down the street and he fired at me and the bullet just went under my police car. And then he was firing for half of the night,” he said.

In another call, explained Stubbs, a detective was being held hostage by two men. After a six-hour chase, the men stopped the vehicle and ran into the bush, firing bullets “in all directions” at Stubbs and his coworkers.

Police Chief Jon Bergen salutes the graves of former Prince Albert police officer Eddie Banman during a wreath laying ceremony on Wednesday. — PAPS/Submitted

“In the news, so often you’re hearing of police officers that have been shot at or killed or beaten. Since then, of course, it’s gotten worse and worse. It’s a regular occurrence,” said Stubbs.

Just a week ago, three Ontario police officers responded to a home in Bourget, near Ottawa, after reports of a gunshot. All three were shot at during the call and one of them died.

Despite the safety risk that being a police officer poses, Stubbs’ passion for policing has carried on in his family — his son and grandson are police officers in Prince Albert.

The current chief, Jon Bergen, said he’s often asked why he works in policing with the safety risks and critical watch from the public.

“We care about our community and we care about the people that we serve and we want to make our communities a safer and healthier place,” he responded.

“The criticism, at times, really unfair, but we always need to stand accountable for our actions and our decisions. That’s just part of the profession.”

Bergen said it’s important to him to honour the service’s history by laying the wreaths. The recognition shows that police officers “are human, too,” even though they may appear invincible.

“We’re people, just like the people we serve.”

Cst. Matthew Kwasnica

Hired in 1951, Cst. Matthew Kwasnica had been promoted to the rank of First Class Constable just a month before he passed away on duty in August of 1956. He is remembered as a very fine man and a valued member with our police service who showed a lot of promise in his short career. He left behind a wife and two very young children. His daughter Susan participated in the memorial service for her father Wednesday. Kwasnica Place in the Crescent Acres neighbourhood is named in honour of Cst. Matthew Kwasnica.

Sgt. Garry Drake

Sgt. Garry Drake served from 1960 to 1996 and spent the majority of his career on front-line Patrol. In the mid-1960s, he joined other officers in leading the Monarch Club for youth, which was established in the 1940s to offer a guiding hand to youth on probation. In 1975, Sgt. Drake was appointed to respond to increasing rates of vandalism and youth crime in the city. His plan for a youth detail in Prince Albert to offer programming and supports for youth at risk of offending resulted in an 11% drop in the number of young people being sent to court by 1978.

Sgt. Drake received the Police Exemplary Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada upon reaching 20 years of service in October 1983. He received the first bar for 30 years of service in November 1990.

Cst. Eddie Banman

Cst. Eddie Banman served from 1972 to 1994 and designed the first should flash, or arm badge, worn on our police uniforms. Shoulder flashes are required to be worn on the sleeves of all unformed officers, and are legislated under the Police Act. The basic design, which still resembles flashes worn by current PAPS members, was adopted by several other police services in Saskatchewan in 1976.

Cst. Banman was is also remembered for starting a Police Ventures group through the Scouts program for youth to enjoy the outdoors. He received the Police Exemplary Service Medal from the Governor General of Canada in recognition of 20 years of service in January 1993.

Cst. Allan Telfer

Cst. Allan Telfer passed away in 1972 at the age of 28 while still a serving member with our service. A police badge sits atop his headstone in memory of his time with our service. Telfer Bay in the Crescent Acres area of Prince Albert is named in recognition of Allan Telfer.

Cst. Tim Ballantyne

Cst. Tim Ballantyne joined our police service in 2005 after participating in an Indigenous mentoring program with the Prince Albert Police Service. He served on Patrol until his untimely death in December 2010. Tim Ballantyne was 27 years old and was described as a caring father and a good friend to all.

–bios submitted by the Prince Albert Police Service