Play Chicken leads to death – Hwy 6 leads from Winnipeg north and is the main supply route for trucks taking goods to northern communities. The roads aren’t busy and the large freight trucks often haul at speed up the desolate stretches. We were having dinner one evening on a break from patrols in the northern Indian reservations when a truck driver stopped to inform us that there was someone playing chicken with trucks on the highway a few miles south. He said that a fatal accident may occur if this person was not stopped.
We headed south to try to locate this maniac that probably a local who was drunk. Sure enough, a few miles sought we saw a truck stopped on the highway with lights flashing. The driver was outside the vehicle and in a state of shock. He explained that as he was driving along a person had jumped out in front of the truck he was operating. It was a large heavy hauler that had been traveling at the speed limit. A person and a truck at speed do not mix well and we found the body of a well-known local some distance from the truck in a ditch. He was deceased.
Having witnessed a number of deaths from vehicle accidents, suicide or natural causes you do become less traumatized by these sights. An investigation into this fatal accident followed and the number of broken bones in this person’s body from the impact – was profound. It reminded everyone of a case of jello – it is strange how one handles adverse situations and the jello scenario seemed to be a coping strategy when explaining it. Enough of this.
High-speed pursuits – Driver training during recruit phase was to prepare you for the real world. Here our pursuits were usually on dirt or gravel roads that were dry and very dusty in summer or snow and ice-covered in winter making this task very perilous. I recall a number of pursuits in our police car chasing wanted suspects or persons with warrants around the roads of the Indian reserves, The dust would be billowing up everywhere and you would think you were chasing the dust cloud not the car – one never knew what was coming at you through the dust.
One dark night drug suspects were trying to make as escape on these dirt back roads that they knew, but our team didn’t – a T intersection loomed too close at speed and we ended up into the forest with serious damage to our car.
Another time a long pursuit at speed up Hwy 6 for over an hour with no one else to help resulted in some gun fire across the hood of the fleeing vehicle to get it to stop. They turned out to Winnipeg criminal types wanted on warrants. These were only a few examples of some of the exciting challenges of my chosen career. The satisfaction of successful arrest and prosecution were our rewards.
Winnipeg Detachment – July 1971 – April 1972
This was a sub-division communications and reporting office. Its funny but I don’t have a clear recollection of much of this posting. I recall that we took calls, dispatched patrols at outlying detachments, checked vehicles for defect correction notices, took bail and court-ordered reporting requirements, received telex messages and were the after hours point of contact for a duty officer. It had to be important to wake up the duty officer as I recall and received my fair share of dressing down for an unnecessary wake-up call – you learn fast. I recall there was a lot of day shift support but the night shift was lonely and you were on your own for decisions.
I lived in a house full of RCMP officers in the city of Winnipeg. We had our own rooms and shared kitchen arrangements. It seems we didn’t spend much time there as we were working our out enjoying ourselves, as you do. A look at the house and my room remind me of an interesting time. I still had my scuba equipment from my hometown days, a canoe and snowmobile in tow. I was set for any adventure.
Flood support – We were all loaded onto the back of army vehicles and transported to the town of Lundar, Manitoba for support in flood relief efforts. The local river had swollen to the degree that the town was flooding. Filling sandbags and stacking them against the rising river is a vivid memory. It was hard work in the heavy rain with long hours. We would gain on the river and then it would gain on us. Locals were preparing and sharing food and drinks as our group along with many others works a few days to try to save the town. The rain stopped and the river subsided and the efforts of many had proven reasonably successful in preventing a total loss to the community. There were appreciation activities at the end but I was thankful to return to Winnipeg and normality.
Hostage situation – On another occasion a number of officers were tasked to support a nearby detachment with an armed and barricaded person situation. A group of us had driven in our police vehicle to the location. We were briefed that we would be providing relief resources for a large cordon that was in place. A person who Police had attempted to arrest was now barricaded in their house and was shooting sporadically at police. We had to crawl into our appointed position around the residence. I was in a ditch with an observation of the residence. Occasionally shots would ring out from a high-powered rifle. A few of those came towards my location as I heard them pass by or into the ground nearby.
This was real and not that much fun. Negotiation was underway with loudspeakers and the house was surrounded. We stayed in location overnight as I recall with too many mosquitoes for company. During the night shots would ring out and radios would communicate locations. It was a tense night and a nervous one. In the early morning hours, it was announced that the person had given up and an arrest had been made. I was thankful not to be on the receiving end of any further bullets. Body amour was not something that we used.
Portage Le Prairie Detachment – April 1972 – March 1973
It was a small city in the Central Plans region of Manitoba. Today it has a population of about 13,000 covering about 25 square kilometers. Portage la Prairie is located approximately 75 kilometers west of Winnipeg along the Trans Canada Highway and sits on the Assiniboine River. The city is surrounded by the rural municipality of portage le prairie that largely supports a vast prairie farming community.
The RCMP city office detachment used to be in the basement of the city hall when I was stationed there – it has a new building today. Our office was an old stone building and the basement that housed the police reminded me of a castle dungeon – particularly the cell area. I was posted to the city patrol portion of the detachment. There was a separate group of the highway patrol, rural area patrols, and specialist squads. It wasn’t very fancy as you can see and the entrance was not very appealing at all – but many of our clients weren’t into aesthetics.
Casework was generally routine with city crime prevention patrols. vehicle traffic stops and incident first response & investigation inquiries. Shift work of days, afternoons and nights filled our roster. Day shift was involved in court appearances, investigation and follow-ups on events of the previous night. Nights were usually consumed with bar fights, drunks again and prevention of break and enters and theft from businesses. Car accidents, loud parties and disturbances of all manner were ever-present and requiring a response. City policing was different in some ways to the rural work previously due to the concentration of offenders.
A rape – The most traumatic event for me was a rape of a four-year-old boy that sticks in my mind as the most heinous and brutal crime I was involved with. The court and defense system began to weigh on my sense of justice. Suffice to say the investigation was sickening, the collection of evidence and statements made you want to vomit. In court giving evidence was the most distressful with the defense lawyers trying every trick in the book to get their client off. Cross-examination was grueling and at times you felt like you were the criminal and not the accused. After a number of court appearances you do get wise and cute with the defense and learn to protect yourself as I recall, The takeout on this case was a guilty verdict and many years in prison. The young child required extensive medical treatment and trauma.
The Big Angry Brothers – A call for assistance at a local hotel bar for two brothers causing trouble – these two were trouble and had just been released from prison for doing time for murder. They were large, strong Indian lads who liked to drink, fight and be violent. We were dispatched to handle the call – my small partner and I. As we approached the hotel on the main street the two towering men were seen leaving the hotel bar and walking down the main street. I was driving and parked the car to confront these two for talk about the call. I thought my partner was with me but he had remained in the car to call for back up – gee thanks. I can only remember him looking at me through the windshield of the police car – indicating he was on the radio? I needed assistance – apparently, while I had left the car the dispatcher had advised that back up was en route and to wait before approaching due to their violent nature. I didn’t get that little message, did I.
It didn’t take long before these two giants decided I would be the next bit of fun for the day – as I was attempting to question them and advise they may be arrested, they quickly scooped me up one under each my arms and walked me down the main street with my feet high off the ground. I tried to remain in control and calm with all this and it did draw a lot of attention from the town folk going about their business. Lucky for me these boys weren’t too drunk, they were in a reasonably good mood and were just having some fun. We had gone about a block when a few backup cars arrived with help that made me feel like I would survive this. A scuffle occurred as they were arrested and it took a number of officers to subdue and handcuff these two hulks and get them into our cars for a trip to the station. They saw this as all good fun – a few charges were laid and they ended up back in prison for parole violations and other offenses. My little partner never left the car that day – much to my annoyance, until back up arrived. What happened to our teamwork?
Pub fights – there were a few hotels with large beer bars in town and it was generally a daily occurrence to get calls for drunks and fights. Sometimes they were minor and easy and other times there was large groups and those that wanted to have a go at or with the Police. We always accommodated them and our cells always respected their presence the easy or hard way. It was work that one quickly tired of – or at least I did. This wasn’t what I wanted to be doing for years to come…
Otherwise, life in small city Portage was good. It has a historic past sporting relics of long gone forts and days of old. I had a room rented from the Gillan family at 21-7th Ave NE. My wheels of the day had changed, were rather fancy and I enjoyed canoeing and fishing. Check out the photo of my residence and wheels on a fishing trip to Sheeprock Lake in the summer of 72.
This was something that was encouraged by our Detachment commander. I joined Big Brothers and took on the role of mentor to a 10-year-old boy, whose mother was a single parent. It was a great time and we learned a lot from this experience. Camping, fishing, canoeing, movies, and activities on my days off provided a great connection, allowed me relief from policing and break for his mother.
I think “giving back” in your life can have tremendous rewards and allows you to grow personally. My decision to leave the RCMP for travels overseas and breaking the big brother bond was difficult and we didn’t keep in touch, unfortunately – I recall his mother wanted it that way.