Sgt. Ryan Russell….the unlucky hero

I’ve been meaning to share my two cents on this story for quite some time. I was hesitant at first because my views on the matter are slightly controversial. I would also like to add that my opinion of the Toronto police officers has been tainted ever since the G20 Summit and their abusive treatment of the citizens of this great city.

Sgt. Ryan Russell attempted to stop a man in a stolen snow-plow that was causing havoc throughout the city. He was unable to subdue both the vehicle and the individual driving, and died as a consequence. This event was headline news for a few days and Sgt. Russell was hailed as a hero by his peers and by the media.

When I understood the details of the story I reserved the right to call him a hero and considered a lot of other factors. I asked why he tried to do this on his lonesome, what the police procedures would be in such a scenario and why wasn’t something more concrete put in place in order to avoid tragedy. Nevertheless, the sad and horrific death of Sgt. Russell was the end result and now we all must deal with the aftermath.

My criticism towards the situation is simple. Sgt. Russell has left behind a wife and child. Who is to care for them? Days after the tragedy, the feeling was that the entire city would care for them, but when the dust settles I suspect they will be forgotten like many others who were hailed in such a light in the past. Secondly, Sgt. Russell funeral price tag was a cool quarter million, covered by yours truly, the tax payers. I’m not sure how I feel about that just yet, but I was not consulted on the matter and I think neither were you.

It’s easy to say that Sgt. Russell was overzealous in trying to apprehend the out of control plow. Perhaps he was following instructions, perhaps his own intuition. I don’t want to demean his actions because whether successful or not, his motive was noble. He was trying to do his job – protect and serve. In that sense, yes he is a hero, but maybe if the police department had been better organised and prepared, the headlines would have been different and slightly more positive.

One last thought….who determines our worth?

…Canada is still an active force in the ‘fight against terror’, and our soldiers are in the line of fire every day. Some make it, some do not. Where is their hero’s welcome? I would say that the role of a soldier is comparable to that of a police officer; in fact I would say that it’s probably more dangerous.  So why do they not get the same treatment?

I have spoken to a lot of people on the matter and most have a reserved opinion. They do not want to sound harsh and cold hearted, but many have similar views as my own.

Is Sgt. Russell a hero? Do you think the funeral costs are justified? Should that money have gone to a trust fund for the family instead? Please let me know what you guys think. Any comment is appreciated and valued.



About luisyork

Poli Sci graduate with an interest in International Relations and Development. View all posts by luisyork

2 responses to “Sgt. Ryan Russell….the unlucky hero

  • ysoserius

    Thanks for posting this. My thoughts on the matter are fairly similar to those presented. A few ?’s:

    1. Is there any SOP regarding the stoppage of a snow-plow (or other specialty vehicle) being recklessly driven by someone under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol?

    There definitely is a protocol when dealing with DUI drivers that refuse to pull over and give chase in everyday vehicles, but I’m not sure about these specialty vehicles. I would assume that Sgt. Russell, being a trained police officer, was acting on his ‘policeman’ instinct and did what he thought was the best COA to resolve the situation. Was it the best one? Probably not, but that’s what our cops/soldiers/guards are forced to do at times – make a quick, tough call in the face danger and uncertainty, and hope it is a good one. That being said, I’m also fairly certain that being alone, at 3 in the morning, in the dead of winter, without immediate recourse, may have, in hindsight, had an impact on the rashness of his decision.

    2. Based on the circumstances surrounding his death, is Sgt. Russell a “hero”?

    This one should be clear cut – I mean, he did die in the line of duty, serving the city and it’s people – but because he was a Metro (Toronto) cop, there certain not-so-nice connotations that come with that badge, especially after the G20. Personally, I think of things this way:

    If you are willing to die for your cause, then you are brave but foolish.
    If you are willing to live humbly for a cause, then you are cowardly but wise.
    If you are willing to put yourself between an out-of-control 3-ton snow-plow being “driven” by a crackhead and the people you’re there to protect and serve, doing the job you are paid to do, then you… have brass balls. That clang when you walk.

    I guess that I consider Sgt. Russell a hero – all of our cops and soldiers should be considered as such – even though his sacrifice could likely have been avoided. I mean, even though they’re getting paid to do a job, can we put a price on the ultimate self-sacrifice?

    3. Was $250,000 too much to spend on a police officer’s funeral? Should any of that money have gone to his family?

    As the people footing the bill, we tax-payers often gripe about how our hard-earned tax-dollars are spent (or wasted) by our govt officials, even though we rarely have access to the books to see exactly how much was spent on what. My gut says “Yeah, that was way too much $,” but my head says “Maybe…maybe not. Have to check the books first.” Until I know the details I’ll have to reserve my judgment. And I’m pretty sure that we’d still complain if any of that money was given to his family.

    With regards to his family, I’m sure there are stipulations in an officer’s contract that would ensure that in the event of the officer’s death, the surviving family members wouldn’t be left empty-handed.

    BTW, there are $10 memorial pins being sold – almost all of the cops at the procession had one – with the proceeds going to a trust fund for Sgt. Russell’s son. The fund also accepts donations.

    • luisyork


      Thank you for the very well thought out comment. I also appreciated the added information. I’ve recently tried to uncover what figure is given to the family of a fallen soldier and or cop but I’ve had no luck so far. Maybe you can take a crack at it and shed some light to this mystery.

      Thanks again for reading my post and taking the time to comment. I’m glad you found it interesting.


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