Where's the police? Yellowknifer questions RCMP response to bleeding man on street

Katrina Nokleby feels she had no choice but to stay with an intoxicated man on April 3 after calling RCMP, who she says didn't respond to the incident and told her to call paramedics.

Katrina Nokleby expected police to help with injured, intoxicated man

Katrina Nokleby feels police should have helped when she called RCMP dispatch saying a man was badly injured. 'He was obviously needing help and that's when police should be stepping up no matter what the situation is. To me that's coming to a point where that's a person's welfare and to me, that's what the police are there to protect.' (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)

It was the last thing Katrina Nokleby expected to deal with on a Monday night. 

"He was moving, but not able to get up," she said, recalling a middle-aged man lying on the sidewalk on Franklin Avenue.

Nokleby, 40, says she stayed in her car and called the RCMP dispatch number, unsure about the exact state of the man and whether it was safe for her to approach him on her own. 

She expected RCMP officers would come to the scene and help her deal with the situation, while also dispatching an ambulance.

She says that's not what happened.

There was either vomit or blood coming out of his mouth and his nose.- Katrina Nokleby, Yellowknifer

"When I spoke to the [dispatcher], she asked me if the fellow was hurt, if he needed paramedics, and I said I thought he did, in which point she told me that I should hang up with her and call the paramedics' line."

Yellowknife doesn't have 911 service, one dispatch line that calls the necessary responders needed for an emergency. 

Even after living in Yellowknife for 10 years, knowing there are two separate numbers for RCMP and paramedics, Nokleby expected that same streamlined service.

The incident Monday night happened at 10:15 p.m. at the intersection of 46th Street and 50th (Franklin) Avenue in downtown Yellowknife. (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)
When another vehicle pulled up beside the man on the sidewalk, Nokleby got out of her car to check on him. 

"He was bleeding from his face," she said. "There was either vomit or blood coming out of his mouth and his nose. I couldn't tell if he'd been beaten or if it was an injury from falling."

Nokleby says paramedics arrived on the scene within 15 minutes of her original call to RCMP.

But she's concerned about how police officers handled the incident. 

"As I was standing there before the paramedics showed up — and I'm not sure if it was RCMP or by-law, it was a ghost car — he slowed down long enough to look to see that something was going on, but then he drove away.

"For him to just take a look and drive on and leave citizens to deal with it? That was pretty unsettling to me."

Ask for help: RCMP

In an email to CBC News, Sgt. Donnie Duplissea said RCMP respond to various calls for service, including those that have a public safety aspect.

"We do not have enough detail on the specific incident from [Monday] night to address the particular circumstances... If someone feels they require police assistance I encourage them to call the detachment."

Nokleby says she didn't consider specifically asking the RCMP dispatcher to send officers to the scene for her protection. She thought the dispatcher would know it was needed. 

RCMP used to respond to most emergency calls like Nokleby's, where someone is intoxicated on the streets and in need of help, but that changed when officials realized it used up too many resources.

"The issue with the RCMP is that they were never sure if there was an underlying medical problem or another medical problem presenting, so that makes it a very difficult situation for the RCMP to make that assessment," said the city's director of public safety, Dennis Marchiori.

Now, paramedics respond to those calls.

Protect and serve 'all aspects' of the community

Nokleby thinks Monday's incident sheds light on an even bigger issue: the cynicism of many people in Yellowknife and across the territory.

"I've seen enough times in this town where people just walk over people and step over people that are passed out on the street and no one looks to see if that person is still breathing," Nokleby said, adding she felt judgment from passersby while she helped the intoxicated man Monday night. 

"And so to me, the fact that the police [aren't stopping to help] is even kind of crazy to me. 

"To me, my understanding is that [RCMP] are here to protect and serve the community and that's all aspects of the community and all members of the community. Not just picking and choosing."

The incident Monday night happened at 10:15 p.m. at the intersection of 46th Street and 50th (Franklin) Avenue in downtown Yellowknife. (Alyssa Mosher/CBC)