The recent shooting of Const. David Wynn in St. Albert sheds some light on some of the dangers RCMP officers face.
The ride along with Ponoka RCMP (see page 9) gave Ponoka News a chance to ask questions regarding personal safety and what it means to work in a small town such as Ponoka. There were no restrictions from police except to give Const. Justin Auld space to conduct his work.
There is not enough space to put everything to a story but here are some of the highlights of the night.
Police have to constantly evaluate their personal safety.
On this ride along with Ponoka RCMP, there were three RCMP officers on duty and one auxiliary officer taking calls. Most of them worked alone.
Wynn’s death is a cause for concern for police and Auld said he does not like to think about it too much. He suggests with any job there are risks. “Any day could be your day,” he said.
He hopes with extreme cases there are some lessons to be learned but sometimes it is difficult to know what a person is thinking or concealing. “The hands are what’s going to hurt you.”
Auld says there are times he takes calls alone because has no choice. If the situation is dangerous though, he will call for backup but he also wants to do his job.
“You can’t be afraid of your own shadow,” said Auld.
He says doing a risk assessment of a situation is an important aspect of the job. “There’s all these flags that a person is going to act erratic. The thing is you can’t be afraid of your job.”
“You can’t walk around thinking that everyone is going to kill you. Most people are generally co-operative with the police,” explained Auld.
Dealing with naked people
Some of the strangest experiences Auld has had are having to deal with half naked people. He says most people would be surprised at how many times that has happened. “Lots of people feel like they don’t need to wear pants.”
“There’s a lot more nudity than you think,” he added.
Some of those cases are from people who are so intoxicated they cannot control themselves.
Alcohol related crime
Alcohol abuse can also cause a variety of issues such as domestic abuse, violence and vandalism.
Auld says serious issues he deals with generally involve alcohol.
Being in a small town poses other challenges. Auld has come across individuals he has arrested over the years. It is an awkward experience but he does not let it affect how he behaves.
“I make a point to treat everyone one with respect,” said Auld. “People remember that.”
“My first pursuit was with an impaired driver,” said Auld.
The chase did not last long however, as the driver was so impaired he crashed into a ditch shortly after. “He was so drunk he couldn’t operate a vehicle at that speed and keep it on the road.”
Of the more serious side of investigations, Auld has had a few pursuits and has also had to deal with serious assaults or sexual assaults.
Dealing with adrenaline
When Auld first started as an RCMP officer he would get a little nervous taking calls but with experience a lot of those cases became routine. He tends not to get as excited as he used to, but in high-risk situations such as serious offences or if someone has weapons on them, adrenaline and training does kick in.
“You have to think more tactically about what you’re going to do,” said Auld.
“A lot of times we don’t have a lot of information. A lot of the times you’re going in blind and you have to figure out the information as we get there or on the way,” said Auld.
“Depending on what’s happening it might take all of us to do it,” he added.
There are a handful of times that Auld says someone tried to fight him and that adrenaline and his training has been an asset. “You don’t lose control. You don’t panic.”
Emergencies don’t have a set schedule. Auld says busy can be hit or miss and for this Friday night, it was not the busiest. There are some nights officers cannot keep up with the calls and they have to split up to handle emergencies.