Saskatoon police constable Derek Chesney has been named "Most Valuable Cop" by the American online magazine Slate, for a blog post he wrote an hour after learning that a homeless man, Alvin Cote, had died.
Cote was a well-known fixture on the city's downtown streets. Chesney wrote in a post on the Saskatoon Police Service's blog, Cops and Bloggers, that "many of us officers, especially those who've worked in Central Division and the downtown area, have become like an extended family to Alvin over the years".
Chesney is a university graduate with a degree in sociology, majoring in Aboriginal justice.
Cote was a Saulteaux man from the Cote First Nation in east central Saskatchewan. As Chesney wrote, "the many years of alcohol abuse and hard street living had definitely taken a toll on him."
'Alvin passed away a few days ago and, I admit, I feel an emptiness' - Cst. Derek Chesney
He recalled how downtown beat cops would give Cote parts of their lunch, cigarettes, toques or mittens, and spare change — even donated eyeglasses to replace the pairs he frequently lost.
Cote died last April.
"I found out today that Alvin passed away a few days ago and, I admit, I feel an emptiness ... he was tough, he was a fighter and he was a survivor," Chesney wrote.
Of his recognition by Slate, Chesney told CBC Radio's Saskatoon Morning: "It's quite an honour. I didn't really expect anything to come out of this, or think anything would even come out of it. But when the honour did come in, it was well respected actually."
Chesney said he started writing the blog for the police department to put the spotlight on the beat cop, and to let people know that police do not "give up their heart" when they walk through the door of the police station.
Of Cote, he said "I wanted to bring to light how the residential schools and stuff like that have affected people. I wanted ... to let people know that, yeah, he wasn't just this old, bearded crazy guy on the street. He actually was a person who had a lot of stories, and he was a human being."