In small detachments in the Northwest Territories, RCMP officers are deciding whether back-up is needed after responding to calls alone.
That’s contrary to a formal back-up policy that says at least two officers are supposed to respond to calls involving violence.
The policy was introduced seven years ago, after the shooting deaths of two mounties in the space of a month: 20-year-old Douglas Scott in Kimmirut, Nunavut and Christopher Worden, 30, in Hay River, N.W.T.
When it was introduced, the RCMP said police officers would no longer be allowed to go alone to investigate certain kinds of calls.
“Members have lost the discretion in terms of how they will respond to certain complaints, the type of complaints that involve violence or weapons,” said RCMP Sergeant Larry O’Brien at the time. “Now members will have to attend these in pairs or more if necessary.”
But only one police officer responded on March 22 in Fort Good Hope, when they received a call about a woman being beaten. They arrived on the scene to find the body of a young mother, Charlotte Lafferty.
“In certain situations, we have to look at it, and the member at that time makes the choice or the decision if an additional requirement is required,” says Sergeant Barry Ledoux, who speaks for the RCMP.
But that’s compromising officer safety, says Robert Creasser, who speaks for the Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada.
“The issue with going to a violent situation by yourself and then kind of risk managing whether you need that second person there to help you assumes you have time to make that call for help.”