When Const. Mike Moore describes his duties as a traffic cop with Ridge Meadows RCMP traffic services, he points out, as a policeman, his main role is to save lives.
Ensuring motorists use their seat belts, or don’t drive like maniacs, or don’t drink and drive, are ways of doing that.
Last April 7 though, just before 7 p.m. on a nice spring day, he learned what it’s like to have a direct part in saving a life.
While a colleague spotted speeders farther up Golden Ears Bridge, Moore was waving over motorists farther down at 113B Avenue for a chat or a speeding ticket.
Until a motorist pulled up and told them someone was in the middle of the bridge and was about to jump.
Moore jumped into his cruiser and gunned it to mid-span, where a middle-aged man had parked his new Ford Mustang convertible, leaned an extension ladder against the anti-suicide fence and climbed to the top.
“He was probably most of the way up,” said Moore, a five-year member of the force.
The Maple Ridge resident had just been given a ticket for an earlier road rage incident in Coquitlam that day.
“I remember the sound of his voice. He was wailing, ‘My life is s***.’”
The ladder easily cleared the top of the anti-suicide barrier and the man was at the top of the ladder, and a step or two would have sent him over the fence, designed to look like a native fish trap, and into the Fraser River.
There was a concrete barrier between the road and the fence and Moore knew if he crossed that barrier the man could have seen it as a sign of aggression.
Moore knew he couldn’t reach him in time.
“He definitely could have gone over if he had wanted to. There was no way I could have gotten to him in time,” he recalled recently.
“You’d have to vault over the concrete blocks.”
So he stayed back and forgot about the Motor Vehicle Act and the traffic and remembered the lessons from his days at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, in Regina.
Give the guy space. Get him thinking of those he’d leave behind if he ended his life. It was windy at the top of the bridge and the traffic was noisy and Moore was trying to get the man to talk.
He doesn’t remember being scared. The RCMP negotiation team that is trained in such scenarios hadn’t arrived yet.
“You just have a job to do.”
He told the man that police weren’t going to arrest him, that they cared and things couldn’t be that bad.
Const. Ian Sneddon, with the police dog service, soon arrived and helped out.
Sneddon asked the man if he’d “give him a rung” – take one step down the ladder.
He did. Then he took another.
The man climbed down from the edge, down to where police rushed him, put him in a police car and took him to Ridge Meadows Hospital. Moore accompanied the man and stayed with him. The hospital wanted to keep him and adjust his medication.
Moore, though, knows not all such calls end that way. He was lucky to have been called there so quickly and arrived just as the man climbed the ladder.
“It’s good that we got right there,” he says. A few moments later and the man might have had time to make up his mind to take the final step. “He hadn’t had any time to stand there and think.”
It was a good team effort, for which Moore and Sneddon earned the officer in command’s Certificate of Recognition at the Ridge Meadows RCMP awards evening recently.
“It’s kind of rewarding that you may have saved a life,” and kids have their dad at Christmas, he added.
The incident reminded him of the interview he took when he was applying to the RCMP. One of the questions was, why do you want to join?
“One day I may get to save a life,” he replied. “That was my answer. It kind of fulfilled one of the reasons I joined.”