Const. Jason Van Dorp was on patrol in March 2019, scanning traffic as he drove down Stoney Trail, when he noticed a semi-truck crash into a median in his rearview mirror.
As he turned around, he watched the truck hit a concrete pillar and explode.
In the next crucial moments, Van Dorp dragged a woman — the truck's passenger — away from the burning vehicle. She had been ejected from the vehicle and passed out.
Then, he turned his attention to rescuing the driver, who was climbing out of the truck through flames.
This month, Van Dorp was given the Chief's Life Saving Award "for his courage to run into a very dangerous scene to save the lives of two people, and for his professionalism throughout the entire event."
'I just like working with people'
While Van Dorp says he's grateful to be acknowledged, he's humble in receiving the award.
"It's something that I think anybody would do in the situation had they been in my shoes," said Van Dorp.
The traffic unit officer has been with Calgary police for just over 16 years. He came from Ontario where he'd been working at a youth counselling centre.
His elementary school dreams of being a police officer were briefly stalled as Ontario saw years of hiring freezes. But working at the counselling centre still aligned perfectly with what he wanted to do.
"I just like working with people, helping people, it was always something I liked doing," said the officer.
Changing tires, working with families
Policing, Van Dorp says, is about so much more than making arrests.
For example, he says, it's not uncommon for the officer or his colleagues to help a driver change a tire.
Then, there are the investigations the traffic unit is responsible for, which often involve serious injuries and deaths. It's heavy work, but helping the families of victims get answers is rewarding, says Van Dorp.
"The feel-good parts of traffic are when you get to help a family figure out what happened to one of their loved ones that made them get seriously hurt or die," he says. "We get to find out for the family and kind of give them some closure."
Van Dorp loves his job, but he says it's been a difficult time to be an officer over the recent period of public backlash toward policing across the continent.
"We can't paint the police all with the same brush.We all are humans, we all have families at home, we all have friends," says Van Dorp.
"There may be a few bad apples in the bunch like there is in any profession.… There's a lot of good men and women that work in policing and they're out to do good and help; it's what they signed up for and it's what their life long goal is."