Sept. 29, 2019 will mark the 19th anniversary of the line-of-duty death of Calgary Police Service Const. John Petropoulos.
It’s difficult to speculate about what kind of man John would be today, had he not died at an unsafe workplace.
He would most likely be a dog owner, and maybe a father.
The 51-year-old would certainly be a proud uncle, a beloved brother and a devoted husband.
There’s a good chance he would still be working for the Calgary Police Service. Would he be a detective, a staff sergeant or an inspector?
There is so much to speculate about what his life could have been. His widow Maryanne, his brother Pete, and his sister Stacey have undoubtedly contemplated that future that was taken from them, as have countless friends and relatives. Birthdays not celebrated, Christmas mornings less jolly, and anniversaries of a different mood.
Even if you don’t think about what could have been, it is hard not to imagine what John would have thought of his death and its aftermath.
Of course, he didn’t want to die. He had a lot left to accomplish in both his career and his personal life. With that in mind, how would he have viewed the circumstances of his death?
A nine-foot fall through a false ceiling. A false alarm. No intruder and no threat to the warehouse he was called out to search.
As Maryanne has pointed out, John would have been justifiably angry about his exit from this world.
That’s understandable for a man who entered a profession as honourable as policing. At the time, his fatality seemed so meaningless. Maybe it still is.
THE RISING TOLL
Since John’s death, 16,286 workplace-related fatalities were recorded in Canada between 2001 and 2017. That death tally is now over 17,000 and climbing.
Would John wonder about the kind of legacy we’re creating in this country – and this world – when it comes to safety in the workplace? Would he be concerned that we haven’t learned more from his death and the thousands of fatalities that followed?
What would John think of Maryanne sitting stone-faced – yet again – at the steps of Parliament Hill in Ottawa at the Canadian Police & Peace Officer’s Memorial ceremony and listening to her husband’s name being read among the hundreds of fallen officers? And what about the familiar faces of his former colleagues at the Alberta Police & Peace Officers’ Memorial Day services in Edmonton? Would it pain John to know of the hurt they still feel so many years later?
There is also the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund (JPMF) to contemplate. John has a non-profit society and registered charity named after him.
That organization has worked for nearly two decades on raising awareness about occupational health and safety (OHS), traffic safety and first responder safety.
Would John be proud of the work that is being done in his name or would he be swearing because people still don’t seem to get it? Would he ask why we haven’t bothered to implement meaningful changes to educate and protect workers across Canada?
Would he want more effective workplace safety legislation, improved OHS methods incorporated as standard practices by companies, or more attentive employees and managers to enter the work force?
Would he call for an end to the workplace fatalities and a different legacy for those who simply want to go home safely after each day of work?
Would he want a new legacy?
We think he would.