POLITICS

RCMP double size of detachment in Nunavut community where officers shot at

08/07/2012 03:41 EDT | Updated 10/07/2012 05:12 EDT
KIMMIRUT, Nunavut - The RCMP is doubling the size of its detachment to four officers in a troubled Nunavut community where Mounties have been shot at eight times over the last six years.

Speaking Tuesday after a meeting between senior officers and the community, Supt. Hilton Smee said the two extra constables will remain stationed in Kimmirut on the south coast of Baffin Island for as long as they are needed.

"They will remain there until we are certain that the risk to our officers is reduced," said Smee.

The move was made after at least 21 shots were fired into the detachment building and truck on July 28.

"These rounds were not random and were very well placed," said Smee. "It was very fortunate nobody was struck by any of these rounds."

A man was later subdued and disarmed by 10 members of the community. Joe Utye, 20, faces a total of six charges in the shooting.

It was the most recent case of gunfire directed at police in the hamlet of about 450 people.

Just last March shots were fired into the homes of two Mounties, who were with their families. No one was injured, but an RCMP emergency response team was dispatched from Iqaluit.

On Nov. 5, 2007, Const. Douglas Scott was killed in his vehicle by a gunshot to the head while he was investigating a drunk driver.

Smee said community leaders asked for the meeting with police last Friday out of concern over what was going on in their community.

"This community was extremely troubled by its second volatile incident within the last four months."

In addition to the extra officers, Kimmirut will also create a safety committee to focus on issues such as illegal bootlegging and firearm safety. Guns are very common in Nunavut and Smee said safe, secure storage would make everyone safer.

He said the .303 rifle Utye is accused of using belonged to someone else.

The community will also ask the territorial government for counsellors to help them organize a healing ceremony. Smee said the meeting between RCMP officials and community members was very emotional.

"It brought forward a number of feelings and concerns about how the community felt regarding the death of Const. Scott," Smee said. "These things need to spoken about and it needs to be brought out into the open.

"(People) spoke about a number of deep-rooted things and issues that they've held within themselves for many years. That in itself was the beginning of people beginning to heal, so that others could hear what they have felt and gone through."

— By Bob Weber in Edmonton