Excerpts from "After the Force"
Edited by Detective Debbie J. Doyle (ret)
After the Force: True Cases by Law Enforcement Officers
Excerpts from early drafts
Release date, March 1, 2022 | Book 8 in Durvile’s True Cases series
From Det. Debbie J. Doyle’s Chapter, “The Painting”
To many of us, swearing on a Bible was making an oath that could not be broken. Unfortunately, for certain individuals who have been charged with criminal offences, swearing on a Bible in court was no different than ordering a coffee at Tim Hortons. It was a means to an end. How many times did I witness an accused lying on the stand? How many times have other police officers, lawyers and witnesses watched in dismay while the accused lied on the stand? Being a Monty Python fan, I brought up the concept of how testifying would change completely if, when someone lied on the stand, a lightning bolt struck them. Dark comments entered the conversation, with ‘Python-esque’ humour. The consensus was that three – not five – lightning strikes would stop everyone from lying on the stand. The first accused who lied and was struck by lightning would be considered a fluke or an act of nature. The second accused, perhaps a coincidence? The third? God was watching. Simply another conversation in the lunchroom that was eventually forgotten.
Arriving at my desk one day, I opened the inter-office envelope lying there and discovered that I had another subpoena to attend court. I looked at the name and instantly remembered the investigation; the court date was almost two years after the child’s initial disclosure. It was Saturn’s Doppelgänger. Even though I write this almost fifteen years since conducting the investigation, I distinctly remember what occurred in court, but not to me. In fact, I don’t remember my testimony – but that wasn’t the important part of the court case.
Everyone had finished testifying and the accused was on the stand; he testified to dispute what the child had said. During his testimony, the accused’s ex-wife who was present in the courtroom, approached Sarah, a volunteer at the Zebra Centre. The volunteers accompany families to court and assist the prosecutor with the child in court preparation to lessen the stress of testifying. The majority of adults experience anxiety if they are called to testify in court as witnesses. Imagine what a child experiences when they must testify in court after being a victim of a sexual assault. They believe the whole world will find out. The ex-wife informed Sarah that the accused lied on the stand; Sarah, in turn, notified the prosecutor. A short adjournment was taken to confirm the lie, and when the court was re-convened, the lie was brought up to the judge. Once the trial was done, the accused was found guilty and sentenced.
Accusing the accused of lying on the stand was a serious allegation, but the ex-wife had irrefutable proof. The accused was involved with the police and legal system for decades. During his lengthy involvement with the police, the accused may not have been truthful with his identity, but his ex-wife knew his birthday. When he was asked his age on the stand, without hesitation, he lied. A simple lie about something that did not affect the case but affected his credibility on the stand – it was the closest thing to a lightning bolt that I would ever see in my career. A coincidence? I don’t believe in them.
From Elizabett Cordeiro’s Chapter, “Honouring the Trust” (working title)
Violent, egregious cases change the lives of everyone involved in a police investigation, including responding and civilian support staff. This reality is too often overlooked. While direct members diligently try to do their job, some get taken off course because they’re finding it difficult to cope, or are suppressing the fact that they’re having difficulties coping. Some suffer from compassion fatigue when supporting victims, families and witnesses in a case, and this is on top of everything else they’re expected to do. Their own families and loved ones feel the impacts at times, with little to no understanding of why or how they can help. This takes a toll on everyone.
What people do not realize about policing is that it’s not what they really think it is. While it is truly a noble career, a selfless, often thankless job, it’s far more than that to those who raise their hand and take an oath, and to the family members who stand by their side. Policing for most is more than a vocation; it’s a calling underpinned by passion and purpose.
Despite the hype, there aren’t many movies or television shows that capture the true essence of policing.
The real stuff, the ugly stuff, keeps us awake at night, pulls us away from those we love and towards whatever will help us through — if it indeed helps at all. The true trauma isn’t glamorous enough to be cinematized. It’s that which marks how much sacrifice is actually involved in signing up to save people’s lives. When we can’t save a life along the way or have to take someone’s life in the interest of public safety, that changes everything.
There’s a sense of failure, inadequacy and guilt, even if the actions were justified, that is incomprehensible to most. Living up to “hero” standards is not an easy undertaking and eventually for some, it takes its toll and compromises doing what’s required to actually save their own life. This is where the peer support role is so key. Sometimes people just need to know that help is out there and all they have to do is have the courage to ask for it.
From JoAnn McCartney’s Chapter, “Forever Proud” (working title)
One woman has been in touch with me for thirty years. I met her in 1990 when she was fifteen and very pregnant. She was at a safehouse and had been assaulted by her pimp. I will never forget her showing me her pregnant belly and the bruise on her side — you could read the logo ‘Levi’s” in the bruise where the pimp had beaten her with his belt.
I arrested that pimp, but he got bail and moved her to the US where he got her a late-stage abortion. When it came time for court and her testimony, she was unable to cross the border back to Canada to testify. She had no ID proving her citizenship or identity, and as much as I argued with the Border Security guards, they refused her entry into Canada and the pimp’s charges were withdrawn. This woman stayed in prostitution for years – she experienced all sorts of violence including one of her friends being murdered in front of her when they were on a double date.
She used mostly alcohol and valium to cope. She had a son, whom her mother raised, who was born with FAS. Eventually she had another son and decided to clean up and be a mom to him. She heard I had started counselling, so reached out and I began seeing her more often.
Although she has not officially been in counselling for fifteen years, I still talk to this woman regularly today. Her sons are both grown, are working and in her life. She suffers with health issues like diabetes and hypertension and has survived cancer, but only focuses on giving her sons everything she can. In her 45 years, her spirit has carried her through all sorts of hardships, but she refuses to submit. This is the kind of strength and perseverance that I have seen over and over in the women I met while on the job in law enforcement and have had the privilege of walking along a path with.
I know that I reached a lot of those women, touching their lives, giving them hope and letting them know they are not alone. My phone number has not changed since I first got a cellphone in 1993. I have heard that the number was carved into the wall above the phone on the women’s unit at our remand center so that anyone needing advice, a verbal hug or some hope could call. I still get calls from women who I got to know over the years – they reach out to tell me that they are okay, or that they are not, and they need to know where to get help. They trust me, and I honour that trust.
From Neil Masson’s Chapter, “A Found Child” (working title)
I was a brand-new patrol sergeant working the day shift in Brampton, when the radio asked if there was a car in the vicinity of Lisa Street. I replied, Sergeant 21A is close, what is the call? Sgt 21A, there is a found child at the apartment building on Lisa Street. See the complainant in 202. 0-4 I replied and you might as well mark me 10-7 because I'm just about there.
Now a found child is not an unusual call, but the fact it was in an apartment building was a little different. I assumed the child wandered away and someone in e same complex would soon call to report a lost child. This was to be like no other found child call I had ever done or ever did in my years on the road.
I parked my cruiser and buzzed 202 to be let in. I was met at their door by a young Caucasian couple and the woman was holding a small child about two years old, or possibly younger. The child was, racially, black and was clutching the woman for all her might. “I assume this is the child you found?” I asked. “Yes,” she replied.
This is where is got really weird. The young woman stated that she and her husband had just returned from shopping and when she was putting the groceries away she heard a noise on their balcony. She looked and saw the young black child standing on her balcony crying. She lived on the second floor so there is no way the child could have climbed up or down and in any event, she knew her neighbours both above and below and neither one had a black baby. Their apartment door was locked and they used a key to get in and in any event the child was not tall enough to reach the door knob.
I asked them to call the building superintendent to see if he or she knew the child. A few minutes later the building super arrived and immediately recognized the little girl. That's Rose and she lives on the seventeenth floor with her mom and dad. We all headed up to the seventeenth floor and knocked on the door of 1602 (no 13th floor). Our knock was answered by, "Who's there?” I replied it was the police and after the eye piece blacked out for a second or two, the door was opened by a black woman in her thirties or early forties. She immediately exclaimed, "Rose baby,” and looking at me asked, “Where did you get her?” I replied that the lady with me had come home from shopping and found Rose on their balcony on the second floor, fourteen stories below.
From Ron Pond’s Chapter, “In the North” (working title)
I transferred to the Northwest Territories in the fall of 1967 where I was stationed in several small communities until ending my tour in the NWT in charge of Narcotics Section in Yellowknife in 1978 when I transferred back to Nova Scotia. It was in these small communities where the First Nations and Inuit comprised a significant portion of the population. All nature of alcohol-related incidents were reported and investigated on a regular basis, in addition to small break and enters and thefts into businesses, mainly committed by young males. By way of example in the first community I was posted, a town of approximately 2,500 people in the first year I was posted there, we had 39 reported rapes and attempted rapes.
Truth be known is that despite the high number of alcohol-related incidents, the vast majority of the community did not cross our path in the course of duties. The majority of people were law-abiding and alcohol was not a major part of their lives. It took a very determined effort to ensure that these crimes, the high percentage of them caused by the abuse of alcohol, didn’t make me fall into the trap of becoming prejudiced, discriminatory or intolerant in any fashion. It would have been very easy early in my career living in barracks and socializing almost exclusively with members and their wives to start thinking of the members and their families “we” as the only safe place to be and all others outside of this circle as essentially “the others.”
The next incident of interest was the crash of a Beechcraft south of Frobisher Bay, NWT (now Iqaluit, Nunavut). The airplane, owned by Coleman Aircraft Industry, was being ferried from Chicago to England by three pilots when it crashed into the top of a mountain killing all three on board. I was assigned responsibility for going to the scene to conduct the initial investigation and to secure the scene of a MOT (Transport Canada) Investigator.
I was accompanied to the scene by an RCMP S/Cst. and two Canadian Armed Forces members. We were flown by an RCMP Twin Otter to a location a few kilometres from the base of the mountain and the location of the crash. Upon landing, we had to quickly unload our gear including two skidoos because the aircraft was slowly breaking through the ice on the creek it had landed. The temperature including wind chill was approaching -80 degrees, sky clear with little wind. As the aircraft safely departed, we loaded our gear on wooden sleds and made our way to the base of the mountain where the military set up camp, including the erection of a floorless bell tent. It was then it was discovered that the snow knife to build an igloo was left behind as well as the fuel for the stove. Having built igloos, I can attest to their comfort maintaining a temperature about 50 degrees when build efficiently.
By this time, it was pointless to radio for supplies to be dropped off as our radios had already frozen in the extreme cold temperature. The Special and I made our way to the top of the mountain to examine the crash site. It was quite evident that the aircraft had flown straight into the mountain. The bodies of three pilots were quickly found and identified. When I began drawing a rough sketch of the scene and making notes, I had to use a pencil because the pens had frozen, and the paper froze and broke. We made our way back to the camp site when we had completed all that we could in the extreme cold temperature.
We sat with the military chaps in the tent that they had erected. The only source of light and heat being a small heater the military provided. Trying to eat sandwiches that we had brought with us that had now turned to basically ice cubes presented quite a challenge. Likewise, tea froze as quickly as it was brewed requiring us to warm the mugs with our warm hands long enough to get a sip at a time. We spent the night in our sleeping bags awake and chattering in the cold, no doubt near hyperthermia. The next morning while the soldiers broke camp, the S/Cst. and I made our way back up to the top of the mountain where we stacked the three bodies on a sled. They were so frozen by this time, they sounded like hollow plastic when tapping their bodies.
From Marc Denis’ Chapter, “Sounds Dangerous” (working title)
One evening on patrol, just a few weeks before, Joe and I responded to a complaint of yelling and screaming, the voices sounding like a man and a woman. We rolled up to the scene and could see two people, a man and a woman, arguing in the middle of the street. As we approached them, we told them to step away from each other, standard practice in cases like this, designed to allow us to speak to them separately. The man spoke up, telling us to leave them alone, that they hadn’t done anything, they hadn’t called us – fairly typical behaviour in these cases. I pointed to the sidewalk and told him, firmly, to get to it. He did. Joe spoke with the woman on the opposite sidewalk.
The man, much quieter now and sitting on the curb, told me that the woman was his girlfriend and they had been arguing. He denied there had been any assault by either one of them, and there were no obvious signs that there had been. When I asked for identification, he said that he didn’t have his driver’s licence, but he had the registration for the truck he owned. I told him that that would do, and I very distinctly remember him handing it up to me from his seat on the curb and saying, “I’m pretty well-known around here.” I read the name on the registration – Frederick Koepke.
Of course, I knew the name. After killing David Kirkwood, Koepke was found not guilty for reason of insanity, despite there being evidence at trial that he would lie to avoid responsibility for actions. He was sent away to an institution for the mentally ill. He spent ten years there, and eventually returned to Ottawa, to live with his parents, in the same house on Gladstone Avenue.
Only a few weeks before our encounter with him, our platoon had been advised that since his release, Koepke had been convicted of assaulting his mother, assaulting his girlfriend, and being in possession of drugs, and that he had also made an attempt to legally purchase an assault rifle, unsuccessfully. We were advised, of course, to use caution if we encountered him. I remember thinking, this guy sounds dangerous.
From Trish Stone’s Chapter, “Adventures on D-Platoon”
Dear great, great, great grandaughter,
Your world is 2520 and mine 2020. You’re just beginning life and mine is closer to a conclusion. Your hair is red and face filled with freckles, an Irish trait. Along with a temper and stubbornness, you never give up. Your name is Angela after my daughter. Your middle name is Keara after my granddaughter. My name is Trish and I wish it was possible to meet you to pass on my own experiences and decisions, so my story will have to do. All I ask is that you write a letter to me and give them both to your daughter or son.
… At that moment another unit arrived. A reflection of coloured lights in my rearview mirror. Shadows bounced toward the sky. A tear fell from my eye. My hand remained on the gun — it was as if it was glued. I couldn’t release my grip. Luckily Cst/s Marc Denis and Joe Iradi heard my voice over the radio. They knew I was in trouble. Marc told me later they ran my call and when saw the name Kopke, raced to the scene. They were known as the “Emergency Response Unit.” A shotgun was mounted between their seats. All I remember is the sound of a shotgun and someone ordering Kopke to step away from my cruiser with his hands up. Today I’m unable to recall how Kopke was dealt with or if arrested. I don’t recall if there was a court case, there must have been. All I do remember is being certain my life was over. The road was dark, empty and quiet. Just my cruiser and Kopke’s truck. I’m sure he planned it that way because as noted, we passed the house where Cst. Kirkwood was killed.
I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the other unit. Still unable to move from the driver’s seat or release the grip of my gun. More tears but I wiped them away. I didn’t want anyone to see. What I never told Marc or Joe how much I panicked. How much I froze. I never told Marc or Joe that I truly believed my life was over. That call, that shift. My last thought would be of my children, Danielle, Elliott, Andre and Angela and my last words, even if it was to Kopke, “Tell my children I love them all.”
I took a 911 complaint involving a gun call in the same area, one street over from Bell Street. It reminded me of the Kopke call. Tense, unpredictable, and challenging. Death so close. When arriving on scene I saw a young man in his late twenties matching the description of the suspect. He was on his way to get a gun from his parked car to shoot his neighbour. There was no time to park my cruiser, I left it in the street, motor running and driver’s door open. Running toward the suspect, I pointed my .38 revolver, ordering him to stop and step away from his vehicle with his hands up. I needed to confirm he wasn’t holding a gun. He wouldn’t cooperate and continued toward his car.
Suddenly the suspect’s mother ran out from a house saying, "Don't shoot my son. Please, don’t shoot him!” she pleaded. Their dog began barking. The suspect was startled and stopped. The mother now hysterical, pleaded again. Chaos. On the street it was just three of us. I scanned the area quickly to ensure no one else was close to the scene. The area is made up of houses and apartment blocks. At that time many calls involving disputes, assaults and drugs were normal for that area. The mother again pleaded and began crying. My only focus was making certain the suspect didn’t open the car door. If he retrieved his gun there would be a standoff.