In the time between the line-of-duty death of Const. John Petropoulos on Sept. 29, 2000 and the creation of the non-profit society that later incorporated his name, there was a lot going on for those closest to the Calgary police officer.
John’s widow, family, and friends oversaw the donation of his organs – which gave life and new hope to others – and they went about the sombre task of laying the 32-year-old to rest.
These were painful times.
There were a lot of questions. Why exactly did John die? Was there an intruder in the warehouse he was searching? What made the work site John was visiting so dangerous?
As investigations took place seeking answers to those questions, John’s loved ones tried to make sense of what seemed so senseless.
There was little in the way of hope or optimism – just the dull pain of the situation.
In a show of support, John’s recruit classmates created a memorial pin honouring their fallen colleague. Front and centre in the pin were the digits 3125, which was John’s regimental number with the Calgary Police Service (CPS). Above that figure were the smaller numbers “96 – 00″ that commemorated the years that he worked as a constable for CPS, starting in 1996 and ending tragically in 2000.
The only words on the memorial pin – which is outlined by maple leafs that represent John’s Canadian heritage – simply state: “Remember Petropoulos.”
Pin sales, primarily among police officers, quickly exceeded $12,000. Those who wore the pin displayed their solidarity with John’s family and friends, and before the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) was even formally created and tasked with a purpose, it had financial footing.
That charitable organization and purpose – of creating safer workplaces for all, including first responders – soon followed, thanks in large part to that initial fundraiser.
Over the years, the JPMF has carried messages of workplace safety and first responder protection. Education and awareness have been raised through safety posters, public service announcements (on the radio, online and on TV) and thought-provoking presentations.
These messages have since reached well over a million people.
More fundraisers have followed, including the redesign of the memorial pin, which still included John’s regimental number but this time carried the outline of a wolf. The wolf was used in the logo of the JPMF as a symbol of the “pack” that is the police family that John was a part of and because of the characteristics of loyalty, leadership and sense of commitment that wolves display.
A NEW LEGACY
More safety messages are also on the way. The JPMF is developing a new public service announcement (PSA) that focuses on the more than 17,000 workplace-related fatalities that have taken place in Canada since John’s death.
It is unacceptable that more than 950 Canadians die each year as a result of occupational incidents. It is time for us to apply what we have learned from John’s death – and so many other worker deaths – and work to actually prevent these fatalities.
In the weeks ahead, we will share more about our plans for this new PSA, which we hope will be broadcast on screens across Canada.
But we also need your help in making this project a reality.
You can help us create a new legacy by making a donation.
A contribution of $40 or more will result in a gift of a memorial pin, as well as a flash drive that contains all of our safety videos and resources.