September 24, 2003
Canadian Officer Killed in High-Speed Chase
Officer Down: Senior Constable John Flagg - [Quinte, Ontario, ]
Former Kingston constable 'was a Hell of a guy'.
By, Tamsin McMahon, The Kingston Whig-Standard
OPP Sr. Const. John Paul Flagg loved his job as a traffic officer so much he gladly racked up overtime and shunned promotions that would take him off the road. Even the letters he wrote his family from a spring vacation to England read like finely crafted police reports.
"He'll tell you what they did certain times of the day, what the conditions surrounding that incident were as if they were police reports," said his brother, Roger Flagg. "That's how he would write it because he was all about detail.
"He was a hell of a guy. He was a very, very good cop and he was an excellent brother."
A former Kingston OPP officer, Sr. Const. Flagg, 54, was killed Saturday morning when his motorcycle collided with a pickup truck during a high-speed pursuit on March Road, east of the village of Almonte.
Police are releasing few details about the crash while it's under investigation by the Special Investigations Unit, an independent agency that reviews incidents involving civilians and police that result in serious injury or death. The SIU has the power to lay charges against police.
The OPP is also conducting an investigation and the Ministry of the Attorney General has been notified.
A member of the Eastern Region RIDE unit in Quinte, Sr. Const. Flagg was one of about 100 officers controlling traffic for an international plowing match in the area north of Carleton Place on Saturday morning, said Sgt. Kristine Cholette of the East Region OPP headquarters.
Sr. Const. Flagg left the match around 10 a.m., when he received a call that police had spotted a green Jeep reported stolen by Smiths Falls police.
Sr. Const. Flagg, along with other officers, followed the fleeing Jeep east on March Road, past Almonte until Sr. Const. Flagg's motorcycle collided with the truck near Golden Line Road. The Jeep rolled into the north ditch on March Road.
SIU communications manager Rose Hong said police may have been using a spike belt, a device placed on the road to slow speeding cars by deflating their tires. She added that Ottawa police may also have been involved in the incident.
Sr. Const. Flagg was taken to Almonte General Hospital, where he died. The driver of the stolen Jeep was airlifted to Ottawa Civic Hospital with serious but non-life-threatening injuries, including multiple fractures, Hong said.
The driver of the pickup truck was treated at hospital for minor injuries and released.
John Arthur Barry, 37, of Ottawa, has been charged with dangerous driving causing death, criminal negligence causing death, flight from police causing death and possession of stolen property. He has been remanded into police custody until a court date can be set.
OPP detachments around the province flew their flags at half-mast as they remembered a gregarious and respected veteran officer who was meticulous, from his polished shoes to his perfect handwriting.
"He always just looked like a million bucks," said Eastern Region OPP Chief Superintendent Chris Lewis. "He would always have people drive away from him feeling good about the officer. Even if they were charged, they liked John."
Sr. Const. Flagg was the kind of officer who would take work home and do it at the kitchen table, Lewis said. He saw dedication to the job as breaking records, whether it was bringing in the most traffic tickets or catching the most radar detectors.
"That's how he viewed his work," his brother said. "To do it as best he could meant to bring them the best results. It's all about numbers to him."
Although he could have retired, Sr. Const. Flagg wanted stay on the job another three years to become the longest-serving officer at his detachment before returning to his family's home on Grand Manan Island, N.B.
It was a final record the 35-year veteran was never able to break.
Born on Grand Manan, Sr. Const. Flagg was raised in Niagara Falls. He had wanted to get into forestry, but chose policing instead.
A career traffic officer, Sr. Const. Flagg landed his first job with the St. Catharines OPP in 1968, where he stayed until the detachment closed in the late 1970s.
He was transferred to Kingston and switched to the R.I.D.E. unit in 1994, said South Frontenac OPP Staff Sgt. Glen Fowler.
He settled in Verona on a house by the lake with wife Joan, where he helped to raise three stepdaughters, Brenda, Roxanne and Michelle.
A skilled motorcyclist, Sr. Const. Flagg was one of the first officers to volunteer for an East Region OPP motorcycle unit and loved to rack up mileage on his police bike.
Sr. Const. Flagg got his first motorcycle when he was 16 and was the proud owner of a Harley Davidson, which he let his stepdaughters shine when they were children.
He had recently started to attend Harley Davidson rallies in the U.S. and Canada and loved to swap bike stories with his little brother.
Sr. Const. Flagg was once in a minor accident while working with St. Catharines OPP when his motorcycle went into a ditch during a police chase, his brother said.
But he had been extremely lucky until the accident Saturday.
"He must have been in a situation where he absolutely had no option because he knows his bikes," Roger Flagg said.
Sr. Const. Flagg rarely talked about the dangers of a job that had killed too many of his fellow officers in similar accidents, including good friend Const. John Gregovski.
Gregovski was killed in January 1989 when a transport truck hit his parked cruiser on the Garden City Skyway in St. Catharines.
"John was really moved," his brother said. "I know it affected him for quite a while. But he has lived with that kind of risk for 35 years."
"He never talked about the risk, he always talked about what he enjoyed about the job. He never showed any sense of fear."
The OPP Aassociation's Web site said a police funeral would be held Thursday at the Free Methodist Church in Verona, with visitation on Wednesday.
Sr. Const. Flagg is resting at the James Reid Funeral Home on Counter Street.
East Region Sgt. Cholette said Sr. Const. Flagg would be honoured at a national police memorial on Parliament Hill next weekend.
Along with his wife and stepdaughters, Sr. Const. Flagg is also survived by parents Reg and Joyce Flagg of Grand Manan, younger brother, Roger, of Bedford, N.S., and younger sister Janet Morse, also of Grand Manan.