In less than a week, five days actually, the sun will set in Arctic Bay for the final time this year and we'll not see it again until February. It is already low on the horizon. Here it is just before noon today, taken through the blowing snow haze of the mini blizzard we're having today.
The call started off as a domestic, but I quickly learned that the protagonist had left the house and had taken a rifle with him. He was drunk and had driven off in their truck. There was a relief member in town and I quickly picked him up and we went looking for the truck. I'd already been shot at once that year and wasn't looking forward to another gun complaint.
Driving by our office I looked up and saw the truck on a higher road, driving parallel to us and accelerating, so we sped on hoping to get ahead of him to cut him off. We couldn't find him. Now Arctic Bay isn't a very big place and there aren't a lot of places to hide a pickup, but this one seeming had disappeared moments after we initially saw it. What had, in fact, had happened was that the driver lost control only a couple of houses beyond where we had seen it, the truck went off the road and managed to bump into a shed/construction crate between two houses. When we got there the fellow was gone, now we needed to find him without the benefit of a pickup truck to look for.
A short time later we were flagged down by a woman who let us know that the fellow we were looking for was at her house. He had come into the house, pointed the gun at her and told her to leave. When she tried to talk him into putting down the gun he threatened to shoot her. (Coincidentally this same house was the scene of our next firearms call, and the gun in this incident came from the same home as the previous shooting).
The (real) basic idea when you have an armed person in a house is to contain them there and establish contact and a dialogue (when you're alone that consists of yelling "Come out I have you surrounded."). Pierre, the relief member, and I essentially snuck up on the neighbouring houses to watch and wait. Shortly I heard Pierre on the radio saying the fellow was at the window and I could hear him talking to him. By the time I worked around to the other side where Pierre was supposedly hidden he wasn't there. I soon saw that he was talking to the suspect through an open window, I joined him.
We knew that the fellow was alone in the house, and we began talking to him, convincing him that he would be better off to give up. Many times, with barricaded people, they see no way out. Events begin to spriral out of their control and they literally think they have no options. What we did was stand out there and try and stop that spiral, calm the fellow and ease the panic that he was feeling. That done we convinced him to stick his hands out the window, where Pierre could watch, while I went inside to get the gun, and him. The danger here is that, of course, there is nothing to stop him from ducking back inside and apart from warning me I would be inside the house with no where to go.
But we were persuasive and when I got to the kitchen he still had his hands out the window. The rifle lay on the counter near him, loaded. I unloaded it it and then walked out of the house with him and the rifle.
Incredibly there were three of us in town for the next firearm incident, the relief member hadn't left yet after the arrival of my partner. But it was a perfect example of how some times circumstances force your hand and you can still find yourself dealing with something alone.
When I walked into the Northern the young woman was standing before the office counter. She still held the knife in her right hand but it was partially in her jacket pocket, still visible and ready to use. Fortunately for me she was fixed on the staff behind the counter, who were standing well back. I walked up to her with out her noticing and grabbed her at the wrist, sending the knife skittering across the floor.
All's well that ends well, and this ended well, no one hurt and the young woman being confronted for her actions (which apparently is the best way of dealing with a personality disorder, who'd a thought). On the scale of danger it ended up at the lower end, but could have been worse had her attention been on me. I did after all go unarmed to a knife fight.
Calls to General stores often give me the heebie-jeebies. Mostly because there are rifles and ammuntion in them. An example of one that is markedly more dangerous happened to one of my Corporals when he was just out of training. At that time the Hudson's Bay Co store was right next to the street in La Ronge, with a set of stairs leading to the front door. T.O.'s and his partner responded to a complaint of a Break In at the store. When his partner ran up the stairs to the front door the guy that had broke in fired a rifle at him. The bullet, headed straight for his chest, struck the panic bar on the door and was deflected up past his face. I understand that he took that bar that saved his life and kept it on his mantle.
Knives can be very dangerous, especially in close quarters. One training film I remember stated that you needed 7 feet seperation in order to prevent a knife attack with an unholstered sidearm, and over 25 feet if your gun was in its holster. The story above was one of at least three knife incidents I had within about a years time.
The first was more innocuous. Again it involved someone with mental health issues and a knife threatening people. In this case it was a young man, paranoid schizophrenic, who was threatening his parents and siblings in their home. By the time we got there we found him seated in a chair, holding the knife and I proceeded to talk to him, calm him and convince him that it was in his best interests to hand me the knife and come with us. Never underestimate the power of patience and calm talk. The most powerful muscle in the human body is the tongue.
The other knife incident can wait, for there were also three standoffs (for lack of a better phrase) with rifles in the same time frame. One of which I've already written about, and really apart from being a target I didn't do anything of note. A short time later, we had another standoff, and though there were no shots being fired this one had as much potential to end badly.
First, a confession. I wanted a "Commissioner's Commendation" when I was in the RCMP. Recognition for some of the truly stupid ways I put myself in harm's way. I never got one, and I was probably envious of some of my close friends and partners who did earn them. The closest I came was a letter of appreciation from the Commanding Officer. It was for not shooting someone in La Ronge. That someone was armed with an axe and a knife, but things worked out well and no one got hurt. He ended up with some of the help he needed.
In some ways I hate what it says about me that I desired to be honoured that way, and what it says about my ego that I felt deserving of it. I suppose that in my defense I could point out that, although I was in a position to do so, I never ever recommended myself for them. Hoping that someone else would make that recommendation is just a little better.
Here are a few instances gleaned from roughly the last year of my service, that made me think I was deserving of the commendation. Part of my reasoning behind sharing them is to illustrate what police in isolated communities face on a regular basis. Part is pure ego.
Back in the dark ages, we were often left alone up here, back up was a plane ride and a few hundred kilometres away. It's just the way things were done. Thankfully those days are past. One Saturday I was enjoying my days off, sitting in the office doing paper work, when the phone rang. There was no point in ignoring it because back in those days when people couldn't reach us at the office they called us at home, not the comcentre in Iqaluit.
The call was about a young woman at the Northern Store, a young woman with a personality disorder who had been ramping up her behaviour partially to get attention from the police. She had been embroiled in a conflict with the Northern staff, and now sought to resolve that conflict by threatening them with a knife.
I had a problem. I was just at the office doing paper work, my duty belt, along with my sidearm, pepper spray, etc., were at home. Now my office was essentially next door to the Northern, only a warehouse seperates the two, and my home and duty belt were in the opposite direction. I had a choice, I could take time to go get my proper equipment, or I could go unarmed to a weapons call. Leah was one of those staff at the Northern, I went unarmed to the call.
There is a minor blizzard going on right now, the visibility has improved immensely and the snow fall has dropped off, but the wind is clocking around 25 knots right about now.
I just picked up Leah from work, where she was doing inventory, and on my way to get her I was cursing myself for not having the camera. For amidst this cold stinging wind, walking in the swirling snow, were two young boys. They were swaddled in their parkas, leaning into the wind, drinking slushees.
Drinking slushees in a blizzard, now there is a scene from the Arctic.
These will be the last of the scanned slides for awhile. The first goes back before my time in Arctic Bay. This shot was taken from my house, the building you can see was the RCMP Detachment in Fort Providence (yeah, I had a long commute). That is a Wood Bison grazing on my lawn. Neither my house nor the old detachment exist anymore. Pity about the house as it had a lot of character and a great sun room overlooking the mighty MacKenzie River.
This next series is from Groenland. This shot is of the fjord below the glacier at Ilulissat (Jacobshaven). The Jacobshaven glacier is one of the most actively calving glaciers in the world and it produces many of the icebergs that eventually make it down our way. This fjord is chock full of ice (floating - the glacier is still farther back). Its difficult to tell the scale of these, but the ice in the foreground is very large, the icebergs in the background are massive, much larger than the huge icebergs that we see here.
These are icebergs near Jacobshaven I believe.
I'm not sure where this fjord is.
Likewise I'm not sure where this scene is taken, but I'm guessing it was up near Uummannaq. It isn't as sharp as the slide is but it is a pretty evocative image. On a side note, I'm pretty sure my internal horizontal balance is off, more often than not my photos have a noticible tilt to them, which I often fix on photoshop. I left this one as it was.
I have never ceased to be amazed at the entertainment value of alcohol fueled crime. If the consequences weren't so serious you could just sit back and enjoy the tragicomic nature of these. Most times though you were just happy you caught someone before someone got hurt.
Alcohol is the nexus (my word of the day) that binds the vast majority of impaired driving incidents that came to my attention. Several stand out, including the naked DWI, and the story I just wrote about. Twice in my career I charged two people at the same time for impaired driving with the same vehicle (a friend of mine had an incident with three impaired drivers for the same vehicle). But it was a rare event when a driver called the police demanding a breath test.
I was in the office in La Ronge one afternoon when the phone rang and I ended up speaking with the owner of the company that ran the School Buses at the time. He told me that he had received a report that one of his drivers had been drinking and when he checked it out she denied it vehemently and was demanding to come to the Detachment to take a breathalyzer test. I explained that I couldn't make her take the test, and he said that she was insisting on it. I checked that we had a breathalyzer tech available and then told him to tell her to come on down.
A very short time later a big yellow school bus rolled up to front of the detachment, followed by the owner in his truck. The woman came in and began ranting how she was being falsely accused and that she wanted to take a test. I asked her if she just drove up in the bus and confirmed it with the owner, and then I explained to her that she didn't have to take the test, but that if she did take it and failed that I would read her a demand and she would have to take the test.
I wasn't paying attention to any signs of impairment to tell you the truth. I was busy on another matter and assumed that if someone drives up to the police station asking for a breathalyzer they must be pretty confident of passing the darn test. I turned her over to the breath tech and then went back to, what was no doubt, a large pile of paper work and over due files that I had.
After some time had passed I looked up to see the breathalyzer technician putting the woman in an interview room. He then walked over and didn't say anything but just shook his head and handed me the results of her first test. Incredibly she blew 270. 270! The legal limit is 80 (or the numbers would more commonly be called .27 and .08). In other words this woman, who was waiting in line to pick up school children up at the end of their day and take them home had more than three times the legal limit of alcohol in her blood.
I walked into the interview room to read her her rights, a breathalzyer demand, and to effectively end her career as a school bus driver.
It is truly amazing the amount of variety in the landscape here, fjords, mountains, tundra, cliffs and ocean. One of the features that surprised me the first time I saw it here, are our "badlands". There are several areas in the immediate vicinity that have hoodoos and other wind eroded features, but the most accessible is the area known locally as Cowboy Canyon. It is also called Cowboy Land depending on who you ask.
These scanned slides are from one of my earliest trips out there, and it has been a few years since my last trip, and I've not been back with a digital camera.
There are, of course, hoodoos... ... and balancing rocks ... ... and a huge rock with a hole in it... ... big enough to drive a snowmobile through... and places where those who are newly falling in love can pose. By way of a bonus, here is a short video of Leah sliding down the slopes of Cowboy Canyon. It is not me that is laughing at the end by the way.
Every once in awhile you come across something that you think no one else will ever experience as a police officer, one of those "well doesn't that beat all" stories. Of course, you'd be wrong. But it still makes a good story.
Around 2:00 am one morning I was driving down the highway near a small Saskatchewan town. Taillights in the distance made me accelerate to catch up. I didn't need to. The older pickup truck was only doing about 40 kms an hour and was wandering in its lane. I followed a short distance and then pulled the truck over. It took longer than normal to stop, and when it did it was in the middle of the lane.
Now these are all pretty classic driving evidence for impaired driving, but when I walked up to the car I was surprised to see that although the four or five passengers were drunk, the driver was stone cold sober. She was however only about 10 or 11 years old. Her father, seated beside her in the truck, had used her as a "designated driver". She had sat outside the bar in the truck while her parents and some friends drank, her job was to drive them home afterwards.
Now there are a couple of ways of handling this, the classic one would be to contact Social Services and try and get some intervention done on the child's behalf. I took a different tack. I charged the father with impaired care and control, towed the vehicle, drove the drunks home and took the girl to a sober relative.
But the father wasn't driving. How could I charge him? The law recognizes that you might not find an impaired driver in the act of driving. It has a section in the impaired/over .08 laws commonly referred to as Care and Control. Essentially if you have control over the vehicle, and could put it in motion, or control its motion, and you're impaired... you can be charged with impaired care and control of a vehicle. Its classic use is when you find someone passed out behind the wheel, the vehicle running, or the keys in the ignition. Other times would be a drunk stuck in the ditch in his vehicle.
But in this case the father had the control over what his daughter was doing, the driving, seated right beside her, he instructed her, he in essence controlled the vehicle through her. She, being a child, wouldn't be able to resist this person in authority. He had control of the vehicle through his control of her. So I charged him, as far as I know, the only person charged with this manner of care and control.