Medicine Hat News
New chief speaks fondly of fallen Calgary officer
Worden had personal, friendly relationship with Sgt. Harnett
All eyes were on Calgary at the turn of the New Year when the country learned of a police officer’s tragic death.
During a New Year’s Eve traffic stop, 37-year-old Sgt. Andrew Harnett was dragged and killed by a fleeing SUV. He is the 12th Calgary police officer to die while on duty.
Medicine Hat’s new police chief Mike Worden, who started his new role recently, served in Calgary for 25 years with the police force. He says he knew Harnett for a few years and that he will be missed by many.
“He was one of the best,” said Worden. “I knew when I saw Andrew walking down the hallway that we’d stop to chat and he’d always have a big smile on his face.
“We always had great laughs and great conversations.”
Harnett spent 12 years with the Calgary Police Service and was promoted to sergeant in 2019. When it was announced Worden was leaving Calgary for his position in Medicine Hat, Harnett wrote him a letter congratulating him on the new role.
“It was super complimentary and it means a lot to me,” said Worden. “He wrote about an interaction we had when we first met.
“Andrew was a quality individual and when you see the reports about his character, they are not an exaggeration — he was a great young man.”
Worden was working his final shift in Calgary on the night Harnett passed away, and went to the hospital the night of the incident.
“My partner is an inspector with the police service there and we hopped in the car the second we heard someone was injured and we drove to the hospital,” he said. “By the time we got there we had heard Andrew’s name and we just hoped he was OK. We eventually talked to the doctor who informed us he had passed away.
“That was incredibly difficult to hear.”
Staff Sgt. Jason Graham has been a member of the MHPS for more than 17 years. He joined the service after five years as an officer in Regina. He says the police world is dealing with many emotions right now.
“It’s a lot to feel,” he said. “There’s sadness, grief and honestly, there’s anger.
“This is a very tight-knit community, and while I never knew Andrew, you always feel a connection to other officers.
“There is a common bond among police officers and we are all grieving right now.”
Graham says a death like Harnett’s reminds police officers of what they can face on any given shift.
“I think with any job you can get into a rhythm and catch yourself on auto pilot sometimes,” he said. “A death as tragic as this really reminds you of the dangers of the job.
“When you hear about this you really take time to reflect and think about what you’re doing. It forces you to evaluate how you and your co-workers do your job every day.
“Life is precious and it can be altered at any second.”
Graham added that getting hurt while on duty is something every officer deals with.
“I’m a supervisor now and over the years I have had a number of colleagues get hurt on the job — it’s common,” he said. “There isn’t a police officer who has never been injured on the job — and there’s varying degrees to those injuries, whether it’s a punch, kick, bite or even being spit on.
“As a supervisor, when I hear one of my officers calling for help it’s a hopeless feeling and there’s a part of you that always fears the absolute worst.”
Const. Jason Van Mulligen has been a police officer for 23 years, eight of which were with Calgary. He attended a drive-by ceremony for Harnett this week in Calgary and says it was an emotional day.
“I represented the MHPS and I actually worked in Calgary with the service,” he said. “It was quite emotional to see all of these people I worked with and to see the impact this tragedy had on them.”
As the days have passed, more details about Sgt. Harnett have come to light. One of the most devastating is that he and his wife were expecting their first child.
“That child will grow up not knowing their father,” said Van Mulligen. “As a father of three, I started to think of how that would impact my children or my wife if something happened to me.
“It’s a really tragic death and I know police officers all over are mourning the loss of Sgt. Harnett.”
Van Mulligen says putting certain emotions into words can be hard after a tragedy like Calgary saw.
“You’re just in shock,” he said. “It really makes you reflect on your career and think about everything you might face going forward.
“Something like a traffic stop can turn into so much more in the blink of an eye.”
All three MHPS members offered their deepest condolences to the Harnett family, as well as the Calgary Police Service.