Officers’ deaths have left policing profession shaken, police association says

The SIU has said neither officer had their firearms drawn when they were shot

By Sharif Hassan

The deaths of two officers in a shooting in Innisfil this week have shaken police services across the country, the Police Association of Ontario said Friday.

Mark Baxter, president of the association, noted that the deaths of South Simcoe police officers Const. Morgan Russell, 54, and Const. Devon Northrup, 33, marked three officers shot dead in the province in a month. 

“It is worrying that it is happening in our community,” he said. 

“Policing is an honourable profession, and it is a calling, and when something like this happens, it has really shaken the policing community, and really has had a chilling effect across the country.”

Baxter said the recent police deaths highlight the risky nature of policing as a profession. 

Russell and Northrup died after responding to a call about a disturbance in Innisfil on Tuesday night while Toronto police Const. Andrew Hong was killed Sept. 12 during a break at a Tim Hortons in Mississauga in what police have called an “ambush attack.”

“The reality is that policing will always be unpredictable and will always come with certain risks,” Baxter said.

The Special Investigations Unit, which is investigating the Innisfil shooting, has not elaborated on the reason for the disturbance call. South Simcoe police have noted that Russell was a trained crisis negotiator and Northrup worked with outreach and mental health teams.

The SIU has said neither officer had their firearms drawn when they were shot. The watchdog agency has said a third police officer exchanged gunfire with a 22-year-old man, who died at the home. 

The SIU has said the young man had a SKS semi-automatic rifle – a type of gun that can be legally purchased in Canada with a valid possession license.

Baxter, whose association advocates for police personnel across Ontario, said while overall crime rates have dropped slightly across Canada, violent crimes including gun violence continue to spike, which requires stronger measures by all levels of the government to address the issue.

In the wake of the shooting, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that the federal Liberal government has been working to step up on gun control.

The planning for a full police funeral for Russell and Northrup is underway and Baxter said police associations from across Canada are expected to attend as the officers’ deaths have “tremendously impacted” forces across the country.

The bodies of both officers were taken from the chief coroner’s office in Toronto to Barrie on Friday. An autopsy on the young man who died in the shooting was also set to take place Friday. 

Baxter said his association was working closely with the South Simcoe Police Service to make sure those affected were aware of the mental health resources and trauma support available to them.

“It is a very small police department,” he said. “Everyone knows everyone, everyone is friends with everyone. And everyone is really struggling to come to grips with this.”

Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Arlyn McAdorey

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 14, 2022.

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