Top cop addresses northern violence

By Ben Ingram

Incidents like the riot in La Loche and shootings at Red Earth First Nation in the Northeast do not indicate a rise in violence against police in the province said Russ Mirasty, the commanding officer of the Saskatchewan RCMP on Oct.6.

In response to the number of high profile incidents between the police and northern communities of late, assistant commissioner Mirasty held a press conference Oct. 6 to discuss the relationship the RCMP shares with northern residents.

“Can we do better? Short answer is yes, but it’s not an easy answer,” he said.

During the morning of Sept. 30 a group of people destroyed a police truck and damaged a hospital and ambulance during a riot that targeted La Loche RCMP members based upon suspicions they had harmed a man injured in an ATV accident.

Less than a week later on the morning of Oct. 4, members of the Carrot River detachment were fired upon with a shotgun at the Red Earth First Nation.

Both incidents were resolved peacefully, but Mirasty felt the need to address the public and dispel concerns that police may be losing their grip on northern areas.

“You never build relationships during a crisis, it should always be before,” he said. “We establish relationships everywhere we provide a service, but certainly they’re not the same level.”

Mirasty said the RCMP currently has as many as 16 members stationed in La Loche, with more expected to arrive soon, adding that for an area with less than 3,000 people, this is above the Canadian average.

He added his expectations that the La Loche detachment will receive a new commanding officer soon, as during the incident two corporals were in charge.

“Not to say that the two corporals there fulfilling that role right now haven’t done a good job, but yes the answer is that process is underway. A person is being identified to take that position very soon,” Mirasty said.

He also addressed accusations that the 29-year-old ATV rider who was injured in La Loche may have been hit by the police.

“There’s no evidence to suggest the police vehicle was moving, it was stationary,” he explained.

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