GENERALLY SPEAKING

    IT IS AN EVENT THAT WE ALL DREAD and hope never happens, especially to a close friend, colleague, or family member. Conservation officers, natural resource officers, renewable resource officers, and fish and wildlife officers are all exposed to the reality that doing our job may result in the loss of our lives. This is what happened to a young conservation officer from Watson, Saskatchewan.

    Justin Knackstedt was a young conservation officer stationed in Saskatoon. On the afternoon of May 31, 2013, Justin and another officer were out checking anglers at local fishing spots near Saskatoon. On their way back to the park, they came across a motor vehicle accident. They stopped to help, and that is the key phrase … to help … by directing traffic and assisting with any other task that needed to be done to help the RCMP with this very busy incident. While helping, Justin was hit by a vehicle being operated by an alleged impaired driver who did not want to stop for the police.

    This could have happened to anyone, including any member of the public, and it is a risk to every law enforcement officer who is
carrying out his duties. As a result of this tragic incident, there is growing concern over why Justin was there, and whether he had training to direct traffic. From my point of view, this discussion is so foolish and is simply a case of covering someone's ass. This happens everywhere and not just in Saskatchewan. Those who sit at a desk, in a big office, and have no knowledge of what we do
every day, can easily say that we will simply no longer undertake duties that may impose any sort of a risk without training. This is
just not realistic.

    Justin did not die because he was not trained in directing traffic. He died because some idiot failed to stop for police and was
allegedly impaired while operating a motor vehicle. Does this mean that any law enforcement officer, whether it be highway transport, revenue, sheriffs, or any other law enforcement should not stop to help because we do not have the training?

    I cannot fathom driving up to one of these incidents, in a marked truck and in full uniform, and telling those who are looking for a person in uniform and in authority that because I am not formally trained in traffic direction or first aid, and since it is not part of my mandated duties, I cannot help. An officer, like any other member ofthe public, stops to help because it is the right thing to do and we all want to help. If I stop to assist a lady with changing a tire, and am wiped out by a vehicle, do we then change policy to prohibit stopping to help people out when they are in need, just because it poses a potential risk? Coming home from Estevan back in April, my partner and I witnessed a head-on collision directly in front of us. It was a horrible event, but those who stopped to help looked to my partner and me for direction. We just acted on instinct and did not worry about whether or not we had the proper training to cover our employer’s butt in the event of an OH&S investigation. I can't imagine telling those who came to me for help that, because I am not formally trained, I am not qualified to assist.

    Many times, the public or other agencies are asked to help because the RCMP may not be at the scene yet, or they may only have one or two officers working. It is inherent in everyone to help in every way we can. Some ask if we are willing to die to fulfill our duties as
an officer. Naturally, we do not want that to happen, but we face that threat every time we leave the house. Regardless of whether I am
working and in uniform or not, we face that threat every day. That threat increases a bit for law enforcement officers because of the work that we do and the potential for violence in dealing with those who break the law.

    Officers here in Saskatchewan are now being trained in traffic direction but, simply put, we cannot be trained in everything that we may encounter while out on patrol. We have to rely on instincts, the officer's ability to adapt, and doing the right thing. Simply slapping on a Band-Aid approach of not doing those duties just does not seem right.

    Justin died doing his job. He was helping at an incident that required immediate attention. It is as simple as that. This shows what
kind of a man he was. I did not know Justin, but everyone who did spoke of a fun-lovingguy who was developing into a great conservation officer with sound instincts. I, like every other officer, mourn his passing and offer our deepest condolences to his family and friends. To the Knackstedt family, this issue of the Western Canadian Game Warden is dedicated to Justin.
Lindsey Leko, Editor
WCGW Magazine


In Memorium Justin Knackstedt




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