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Sarah Anne Cockerill
constable, volunteer, mother, stickler for correct English,
and an inspiration to others with her infectious laughter,
Sarah Anne Cockerill, aged thirty-nine, died of a brain tumour 9 March, 2001
Sarah Anne Cockerill, a constable of the RCMP, had a loud and infectious laugh that could be heard from one end of the RCMP Richmond Detachment to the other. She also had a reputation of fearlessness, which I didn't learn until after she died.
Alone on highway patrol one night, I'm told, she heard four male colleagues discussing on the radio network how best to take the local biker chief into custody. He was a tough customer. He had cracked a constable over the head with a bottle during a disturbance at the local bikers club and sent the four investigating officers into a reeling retreat from the premises.
A short time later, Sarah pulled a driver over for erratic driving and recognized the burly biker chief who had caused such trouble. He was drunk. She bundled him into the back of the police cruiser and reported on the radio that she was bringing him in. She had succeeded where her male colleagues had failed. From that time on she was known as fearless Sarah.
Born in Montreal and raised in Labrador and Cobourg, Ontario, Sarah had an ebullient personality. She was as close as a mutton chop to her sister Kate. They fought one another like tigers when they were young, but defended each other like champions whenever trouble was brewing with others. The two always maintained they were twins separated by twenty-two months.
Growing up, Sarah was first a Brownie, then a Girl Guide, and next a candy striper at the local hospital. During high school, she became a regular visitor to the Corrections Canada Institution for young offenders. She was a straight shooter, a bit prissy to some of her colleagues. She didn't like swearing and only when driven to the extreme would say, 'Shoot the dog' as a reasonable substitute for shit!
It was her outgoing nature that led her to join the RCMP. As a recruit in the third intake after women were permitted to join the Force, Sarah served long enough to become one of the more senior women (or, as they are known, female) members of the Force.
She laughed about that, for she was a stickler in the use of language.
Other members dealt with 'individuals', Sarah with people. Others 'proceeded', Sarah 'went'. Others said, Under the circumstances, Sarah said, In the circumstances. She preferred plain English to the stilted style of most police reports. She took a lot of flak for her emphasis on the correct use of English, but it hardly dented her style.
For the last two years of her career, Sarah was deeply involved with her partner Sharon in pedophile investigations on the lower mainland and was well regarded for her work. She was remarkably successful in securing convictions and putting away a number of these revolting people.
I asked her once how on earth she could bear to do such work. I said my impulse would be to plough them one straight across the interview table. She laughed her infectious laugh and said, 'That's exactly how I feel, but I have two children and this is my way of helping protect them and hundreds of other children like them.' Sarah was the most pragmatic of women.
She learned of her promotion to sergeant and was asked to name the division to which she wished to be posted on the day she fell ill - with a brain tumor as it turned out. Even so, she refused to give in and raged against the fading of the light until the day she died.
Sarah had the comradeship of her fellow officers, which was obvious from the way they rallied round her when she was ill. I shall be ever grateful for that. I could write a book about her - her joy, her short, inspiring life, her volunteer work, her wit, her undercover work for the RCMP, her throaty infectious laugh.
'Dad!' she said, speaking with excitement on the telephone one night. 'Guess what? I'm working under cover.' I hoped to God that did not mean under the bed cover! 'Oh dad,' she replied in a delicious fit of laughter. 'How I wish it were!'August 2001
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