Yellowknife city councillor skeptical of RCMP downtown foot patrol numbers

Yellowknife's top Mountie, Insp. Alex Laporte conducts a foot patrol at the sobering centre on Sept. 26. John McFadden/CKLB News photo)

A Yellowknife city councillor says she has a difficult time believing the RCMP’s claim that officers conducted 51 downtown foot patrols in August, including about 15 of them aimed at the sobering centre and day shelter on 50th Street.

Stacie Smith, who also operates a flower shop at the YK Centre Mall, says she just does not see it.

“I’ve seen them within the mall but only twice and not in August but the month prior. You want to feel safe on these streets and right now people aren’t feeling safe,” Smith said. “To have only 51 street patrols in 31 days, that’s not even twice a day. There should be a lot more foot patrols to ensure peoples’ safety. People are walking around scared.”

Smith’s comments come after Yellowknife’s top cop, RCMP Inspector Alex Laporte, gave councillors the foot patrol numbers during the Mounties’ monthly report to city council in late September.

Yellowknife City Councillor Stacie Smith.
(Photo courtesy of City of Yellowknife)

The report came after the tragic fatal beating of Mark Poodlat, 36, who died after an attack in front of the sobering centre last month.

The vicious attack was captured on a closed circuit security camera positioned across the street.

Victor Ugyak, 32, is charged with second-degree murder in Poodlat’s death.

Smith says if officers are going to conduct downtown foot patrols, they should make sure they stop by the sobering centre where she says much of the trouble downtown originates.

She wonders what it’s going to take for the RCMP to adopt a modern community policing theory that suggests crime fighting can be more effective if you take officers out of their patrol vehicles and have them walk or bicycle the beat and engage with residents face-to-face.

Smith, who is Yellowknife’s only Indigenous councillor, adds that she decided to run for council after learning an Indigenous woman was sexually assaulted in a downtown alley back in 2017.

After that attack, Laporte defended putting the victim in their holding cells, telling CKLB that was the safest place for her.

Smith says she also has a problem with the Yellowknife RCMP policy of not using the word “stabbing” in their news releases about alleged stabbings.

“I think when you don’t identify exactly what it is, you are trying to make people feel less scared. Call it what it is. It’s a stabbing. Someone was punctured,” Smith said. “We want to know our RCMP are working for us. We want to ensure we are safe.”

Councillor Niels Konge, who is very supportive of Yellowknife RCMP, asked Laporte at the council meeting what he would say to people who don’t believe police conduct the number of foot patrols that they claim.

“Obviously I would disagree. I cannot comment on people feeling they don’t see the police officers. We are present. I see it. We were present on bicycles this summer. We are present in our cars. We’ve been present on foot and we will continue to put our efforts towards the downtown,” Laporte said. “We are investing in the issues we are facing downtown from a law enforcement perspective. We are trying to find ways to do more.”

Laporte added that patrols range in length from as short as five minutes, up to 45 minutes.

He would not commit to increasing the number of downtown foot patrols in the wake of the recent homicide.

CKLB has asked dozens of people who frequent the downtown over the past several weeks if they see downtown street foot patrols by the RCMP.

The vast majority say they rarely, if ever, see police on foot in the downtown.

That includes a doorman at a downtown bar who asked not to be identified.

He says if the cops came by on foot on the weekends when the bars are letting out, their presence might help quell the brawls and rowdyism he sees regularly on downtown streets.

He also suggested that if there were more downtown RCMP foot patrols, the man who is now charged with murder might not have felt so emboldened to brazenly attack a man downtown in broad daylight.

CKLB asked RCMP if it was possible that some of the foot patrols were conducted by undercover officers and perhaps that was why the public wasn’t seeing them.

“RCMP cannot comment on undercover work of officers.  We can advise, that some officers on duty, in civilian attire, may accompany general duty officers on visibility patrols,” stated civilian RCMP spokesperson Marie York-Condon. “The purpose of the visibility patrols is to increase the visibility of the police officers.  As such, each patrol will have at least one uniformed officer, for easy identification on patrol.”

About the Author

John McFadden
John has been in the broadcast journalism industry since the 1980s. He has been a reporter in Yellowknife since 2012 and joined CKLB in January of 2018. John covers the crime and court beat as well as reporting on other areas including politics, business, entertainment and sports. He won seven national community newspaper awards while he was a journalist with Northern News Services Limited (NNSL). John worked in Ontario before coming North including stints as a TV sportscaster in Peterborough and senior news writer for CBC and CTV in downtown Toronto.