Thursday, January 05, 2023

Killed police officer was a great guy, but maybe not a hero

Constable Greg Pierzchala was shot in an apparently random and senseless gun crime near Hagersville, Ontario, last week. He was shot while attending a pretty routine road incident by a young hoodlum who had been granted bail despite a number of assault and weapons charges (that's a whole other issue).

Pierzchala had only been a police officer for just over a year, and had barely finished his 10-month probation period. He seems like a genuinely nice guy, although of course everyone likes to think well of the dead. At his funeral in Barrie, Ontario, yesterday, friends, colleagues and family members all spoke very highly of him. He was a nature lover, enjoyed martial arts and appreciated art, quite the Renaissance Man it seems. He enjoyed his job and had a "big heart", to employ a rather overused phrase. Her was certainly a brave man, as are all police officers who routinely put themselves in the line of fire day in and day out. He was even an "inspiration", at least to his younger sister.

But was he "a hero"? Again, his sister thinks so. But that's a high bar to reach. Soldiers in wartime are often referred to as "heros"; people who rescue others in dangerous situations; people who turn around the fortunes of countries or oppressed minority groups. These are heros. Does Constable Pierzchala belong in this august company? Maybe he might have done one day, but just a year into his police service, he had not had the opportunity yet. He was killed in an apparently random attack; he was in the wrong place and the wrong time. However nice a guy he was, we should probably not disrespect centuries of genuine heros by bandying the word around willy-nilly.

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