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Retired officer offers message of hope and resilience

In Our Valley: Laurie White
Photo of Laurie white in her uniform standing outside the Kitimat RCMP Detachment. (Photo submitted/Laurie White)

A retired Kitimat RCMP officer shot in the line of duty hopes that her new self-published memoir will inspire others.

Laurie Anne White, 52, grew up in Brockville, Ont., and spent most of her early life there with her parents and three brothers.

She attended Brock University in St. Catharines, Ont., where she did an undergrad in phys-ed, followed by the University of Ottawa where she would complete her master of arts in sports studies. Then she returned home.

“I was having a tough time finding a job, I had two degrees and I was 23 but I didn’t have a lot of job experience, I found it difficult to get into the workforce,” said White.

She began working as a skating coach, aerobics instructor, bartender and substitute teacher for two years. At the time she was teaching fitness a fitness class and met someone who was working with the RCMP. They suggested White try a career in policing.

“It seemed really exciting, growing up in Ontario, you don’t see the RCMP in the same way in most of the other provinces, in Ontario, they have the Ontario Provincial Police and then they have the municipal police forces, the RCMP doesn’t have the same visibility,” she said.

White began her application process to join the RCMP in January 1995 and she found herself at the police academy in Regina, Sask. later that year.

“Gruelling, very intense, very heavy, you learn law, self-defence, physical training, driving, shooting all the different elements of policing, really long days, long hours.”

She found herself getting swept up in the camaraderie of the RCMP. White enjoyed being part of a group and loved the excitement.

White realized she was 100 per cent in on policing, and in 1996 she was posted in Kitimat.

“I’m standing there at attention when they tell you what your posting is and my mind is spinning,” said White.

“When you’re not from B.C. you think Vancouver is B.C. and of course, I go get a map.”

It was a big transition for White as now she had to learn her way around a new community. She spent time, in the beginning, getting familiar with her job and the people around her. Becoming a part of the wider community was difficult.

“They decided to try a new shift schedule with us and I ended up getting straight nights for almost 10 months,” said White.

As a person who enjoys socializing with others and playing sports it made it rather challenging to make friends, especially outside of the workplace. The nighttime was slow and got slower during the winter, however,

White describes Kitimat as a great place to learn. Her love of skating continued and she played sports in the city including baseball, golf, synchronized skating and curling.

But, an encounter on Nov. 27, 1998, would change the course of her career, and her life.

White, along with two other police officers were executing a search warrant on a townhouse complex of an alleged sex offender. She was on the right underneath the carport and her partner was on her left while the third officer circled around to the backdoor.

“All of a sudden we heard a loud pop, it was like a balloon popped right beside my ear and my ears were ringing and I looked and saw a hole in the door, it was a white door and there was a big hole in it, and I smelled gun powder,” said White.

“I looked down and saw smoke coming from my shin, it was very bizarre how all my senses kicked in before my brain actually figured out what happened and so then I said to my partner I’ve been shot.”

Her partner pulled her behind a vehicle that was nearby to get her out of the line of fire and made a call over the radio that an officer was down.

“My partner quickly looked and said you have one bullet hole in the leg and I heard the ambulance sirens and I was lying there in a very rapidly growing pool of my own blood,” said White.

Paramedics arrived on scene and quickly carried her to the ambulance, while she was being carried White says she felt her leg dangling awkwardly.

Arrangements from the Kitimat hospital were then made to have her medevaced to Vancouver.

“It was emergency surgery, they were trying to save my life, I had lost so much blood I had 13 blood transfusions, they also kept taking chunks of my vein from my inner thigh of my left side to try to reconnect circulation in my foot on my right,” said White.

Despite the efforts of medical staff they could not get circulation reestablished to her foot and had to amputate five inches below the knee.

“It was such a haze, it was really hard to wrap my head around … my journal would probably say 10 days I just couldn’t look at what was left,” said White.

She made the decision that despite her amputation, she would go back into policing. But first, White had to begin her road to recovery.

“I had nothing but time to focus on my recovery and so that’s what I did, I threw myself 100 per cent into my rehab and I think my mindset was that I have to make as much progress now as I can in order to reestablish so much of my life that had been taken away,” said White.

She had to take all the policing tests again which included shooting and driving and ensure she had reached the standards that were set out.

Ultimately, White made the decision to once again return to Kitimat in 1999 despite what had happened. She said she wanted to go back to reduce stressors and return to a place where she was surrounded by supportive friends and colleagues.

It wasn’t long before she revisited the site where the shooting took place, and as White returned to work she eagerly awaited her first call now that she was back on duty.

“I was very pumped about returning to work and I was eagerly anticipating my first call and it was a bear patrol call, which is a laugh, you’re so pumped to be back and go do hardcore police work and the first call is there’s a bear wandering around the neighbourhood,” said White.

In 2001, White left the northwest and would spend five years in the Okanagan working in Vernon and then moving to Kelowna.

Veterans Affairs visited her home in 2003, and following a long conversation, the ministry suggested that White do some research on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). White had struggled with depression after being initially released from the hospital in Vancouver.

“I remember sitting down at my computer and googling PTSD and all the signs and symptoms, every time I would do these little quizzes and I said oh my god things make sense now,” White said.

She would officially be diagnosed with PTSD in 2003. She described it as scary, because PTSD is a mental health issue — something that wasn’t talked about much at the time

White after five years in the Okanagan made the decision to head to Surrey where she would stay for the remainder of her career retiring in 2020. A highlight of her career as a member of the RCMP was doing security planning for the 2010 Vancouver Paralympics as part of the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit. To prepare for the 2010 Olympics White, got to attend the 2008 iteration in Beijing to learn about how their security had been planned.

Now in her newest chapter, she has recently self-published a memoir.

“I said way back, when I was still in recovery and rehab mode that I always wanted to write a book, though I didn’t know what that was going to look like,” said White.

She wrote in a journal and compiled her thoughts and feelings throughout the time following the shooting and when White retired it gave her the time to put together all of her thoughts.

“I really felt like I needed the time and the distance from my official retirement to get the tone right,” White said.

When she was looking into writing her book she found a man that would ultimately encourage her to share her story.

Sheldon Silveira, who was a young boy in Kitimat at the time of White’s shooting, witnessed some of the events of Nov, 27, 1998 and that experience ultimately inspired Silveira to make a career of helping people by joining the RCMP.

Now, White is hoping that the story of hope and resilience in her memoir inspire others.

Christian Aspostolovsky

About the Author: Christian Aspostolovsky

Born and raised in Kitchener Ontario before I found my way up to northwest B.C. working at a small radio station as a news reporter.
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