“You might as well start by showing this guy the drunk tank. Be careful down there, the smell is intoxicating.” That was the comments Corporal Parker told another police officer and myself, as I began a night tour with the RCMP. I wanted to see exactly what they saw on an average night, and how they were involved with alcohol abuse in the community.
It was a beautiful evening, the sun was shining, the streets were humming with activity. It was 8:30 pm, but already there were 10-15 drunk sprawled, passed-out and loaded on the drunk tank floor. There was one who was awake. He looked up at us trembling, as if to say, 'Please let me out of here – I'm drying out. I need a shot of wine.' He leaned up against the cell doors with his hungry eyes.
“We can't give them a bed. I know it looks disrespectful but if we gave them all a bed, they would be knocking on doors to get in here. To some this is the safest place they have. To some this is the safest place they have. When they wake up they still have their money and belongings. We don't charge them for anything, so when they wake up, they collect their stuff and go. So we can;t be giving them a be, no way!” Constable Marrion explained.
The next stop on the tour was the women's side. They have their own female guard. “this is to make sure there is no abuse between the girls and one of the officers. There is no way we can get in here without the guard.” Marrion explained.
Two women were in, no, I should say out, as they were right out of it. One had no shoes or socks. Her feet stuck out through the blanket. They were covered with mud and dirt. They were covered with mud and dirt. They were so dirty it looked like fungus and bruises covered her feet, but it was just dirt. “Okay, I think you've seen enough. I can't stand it any longer. The smell in here is atrocious!” the female guard told us as she tried to hold her head and nose in a way that would be less aggravating to the intoxicating fumes that sort of crept up all around you. We all sort of staggered for the door. It was definitely enough!
Shortly after 9:00, Constable Marrion and I were on our way. “If you've been here long enough, I guess you know all the old haunts,” he said as we drove down to the river. “We pretty much missed most of thee action. Most of the real hard drinkers have already passed out some where. They get started as soon as they get up, or as soon as they can get a hold of some booze.”
The cruise took us through the back ally ways of the more established pubs and parlors. The bars were full, but the streets were empty and quiet. We drove to the old Kwanlin Dun Indian village. We drove around a few of the suspected bootlegger places. Everything was quiet, except a party was going on. We could hear the music and laughter from one end of the village to the other. There were no complaints so the constable ignored it.
We cruised around town till about 10:00, where we then joined the other officers on patrol for coffee at G&P's Pizza in Riverdale. We were into our second cup when a call on the mobile radio came through. The Capital Hotel reported a drunk in the vicinity of their establishment. Constable Jerry Geddes responded to the call. He asked if I would like to go with him.
We drove around and around looking for the drunk. He was not to be found. We looked for abut a half hour, when over the radio phone came another call. A suspected break and enter at Northern Stores. On went the siren as we raced down to the store. My adrenaline started pumping. It turned out to be a false alarm. The wind had been jammed the door enough to set the alarm off. While we cruised around the building, Jerry stopped the car and got out. Then someone stood up, a wino had been sleeping in the grass. He looked to be about 60 years old. No arrest was made: he was sober enough to look after himself. Concerned Jerry advise him to go home.
At 11:00 pm, we received another call, the music was too loud at the Takhini Ball Park. There was a beer garden happening in conjunction with a tournament. We went in and explained the complaint to the organizers, they were happy to comply. There were a few boos from the ball players
nothing serious. On our way back down Two Mile hill, there was a lady staggering towards downtown, She was walking very close to the road and she had no shoes on. Jerry pulled over to observe her. “Nope, she isn't staggering enough” he said. “ We only arrest people who are dangerous to themselves or the public. They have to be almost completely helpless.”
About 12 midnight we were driving down main street. There on 2nd and Main street right in front of the Bank of commerce, is a guy passed out solid spread eagle right on the pavement. He probably fell off of the bench. His sun glasses and cap lay in front of him. I even thought he might be dead. Constable Geddes approaches with caution. He checks his pulse for vital life signs. Jerry picks him up and carries him to the car. The man becomes conscious, he mumbles a few words, but is unable to walk.
At the station Jerry has to take his shoes off for him. All his effects are taken, recorded, and stored in a locker. In his pockets there was about 5 books of matches, a bundle of Kleenex tissue, and about $2.75. While we are in the station, still processing the drunk one of the ladies is hollering and screaming to see a guard. Jerry goes to see what the problem is. It was the one with the dirty feet. She is in the early stages of the dt's. “Whats wrong?” he asks. “Help me” she says.
“whats wrong?” He asks again.
“I'm seeing things! I'm seeing bugs and the walls are moving. Help me, please! I'm so afraid” she says, as she pulls the blankets over her head. “How long have you been drinking?” Jerry asks.
“For about two months,” she sobs.
“Lets go, we have to take her to the hospital, I don't know if she's telling the truth or not but if something happens to her, I'm responsible. We already have someone in the Detoxification room at the hospital. If she has to stay there, I don't know where they will keep her.”
She is treated at the hospital and then released. It takes a few minutes before she can remember her own birth date. In the way back over to the station, concerned for her, Jerry talks to her, He tells her she would have no problems if she can quit drinking. She tells him she is going to sober up first thing in the morning. “As soon as I get out of here I'm going to quit.” She tells him. Through all this, the female guard accompanying her, has obviously been through this before. “What ever you do, don't get sick on me.” she says. Hearing that Jerry quickly looks over his shoulder, not wanting her to make a mess in the car. There is concern from both of them. At one moment, the lady almost did. We managed to get her back without incident.
Finally we are able to get back to patrolling the streets. Jerry looks at me, “Sometimes we try the nice guy approach. We pull someone over, or talk to them in the streets, we see they are drunk, but they are going home so we give them a chance. An hour later we get a call there's been an accident, or someone has just beaten up his wife. His wife has been badly beaten! Boy that makes you mad. I could have arrested them and there would have been no problems. After a couple of those types of incidents there is no more nice guy. No more chances!”
That's just the way it is. The main purpose of the patrol is to let everyone see that the RCMP is out there. “ We hope someone will see us and because of that they won't drive if they've been drinking.” It's approximately 1:30 am, Jerry pulls his patrol car into the Koppper King parking lot, We get the same reaction in both bars: nobody even notices us. “The people in here are so drunk they don't even see us.” he says. Then adds, “ they can't even see past their own noses.” “It's only a half moon tonight but I have a feeling it's going to get real busy.”
We started cruising back towards town. In the Two Mile Hill we notice a truck pulled over to the side of the road. Jerry pulls along side and observes. There was an argument going on. Nobody notices there's a cop car right along side. There is hollering and screaming, they finally notice.
“Look, see what you've done. The cops are here, Now we're in for it.” someone hollers, Jerry gets out to investigate. He brings a young girl about 19 years old back to the car. She is covered in blood. There is a cut under her left eye. “who was driving?” he asks. “I was!” she says. Jerry tells her to get into the car and advises her of her rights and that she is under investigation for impaired driving. But first she is in bad need of some first-aid, so he rushes her to the hospital. She needed 8 stitches under her eye. “I'm going to charge him.” She yells. “He's going to pay this time.”
Her boyfriend apparently smashed her in the face with a beer bottle. Jerry is very concerned for her. “How long have you been with your boyfriend?” Has he ever done anything like this before?” She's been with him for five years. Last year he was charged for assault. “All he got was probation!” She said.
Returning to the police station she took the breath-a-lizer test, the impaired driving charges were dropped. She blew just under.
After further investigation, it was learned she punched her boyfriend first. Knocking out one tooth and loosening another. “He can charger her for assault if he wants but we are going to have to charge him.” Jerry explained. “If we get sufficient evidence we have to, any way I want to. I don't like this sort of thing.”
By this time it was 3:30am, my tour was winding down. Back at the station Crpl, Parker asked me if I learned anything. I told him I noticed everyone arrested that night, including that the ones in the drunk tank were native. “Whites have the same problem with alcohol as Natives. The only difference is when a white person sees us they hide. Most Natives don't have a safer place to go. If they have money we sort of take care of it for them. They get everything back in the morning”. On my way out the door Jerry calls me for one last talk, “ I tell them over and over but it don't seem to make a difference. I really try to talk to these people in a language that they can understand as quickly as they could quit drinking all their troubles would disappear. They would never be here if they didn't drink. They wouldn't have any problems. 99% of all Native problems are because of alcohol. Because they were drunk or they committed a crime to get it.”
“Natives are doing well now. A lot of our people don't drink. Imagine if no Natives drink: we would simply be unbeatable at whatever we do.”
by Earl Darbyshire