Nunavik’s top cop says provincial police response too slow in crisis situations
“The delay in having the SWAT teams come in to assist us is unacceptable"
KUUJJUAQ—The Kativik Regional Police Force says help from Quebec’s provincial police could have changed the outcome of a standoff that ended in the death of a Nunavik man last week.
Nunavik police officers shot and killed an Inukjuak man, after he fired at officers following an overnight hostage-taking and standoff in the Hudson coast community.
Preliminary investigation shows that, just after 9 p.m. on Sept. 4, Tommy Ningiuk took a number of hostages and barricaded himself, armed, inside his Inukjuak home.
KRPF officers in Inukjuak responded to the incident, negotiating with Ningiuk through the night with the help of two other officers flown in from Puvirnituq, while Ningiuk fired his weapon outside the home.
KRPF chief Jean-Pierre Larose said he called the Sûreté du Québec around 10 p.m. that evening, requesting the SQ fly in its Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, which is standard in crises.
Local officers were able to release the hostages on the morning of Sept. 5, but Ningiuk remained inside the home. At 11 a.m., Ningiuk fired his weapon at officers and officers returned fire, fatally wounding the 40-year-old man.
Quebec’s independent investigation agency, the Bureau des enquêtes independantes, has now taken over the investigation.
The agency’s version of events suggested the SQ was there to respond to the standoff, but Larose noted the SWAT team “never arrived.”
“They were still in transit when the death happened,” he said.
Larose wants to know why the SQ didn’t send the team until 12 hours after the force would have received the KRPF’s request.
“The delay in having the SWAT teams come in to assist us is unacceptable,” he told Kativik Regional Government council meetings in Kuujjuaq on Sept. 12. “It’s too often that it takes that long.”
Larose said he’s expressed his concerns to the SQ and has a meeting with the force next week.
The KRPF would have had six officers who responded to the incident between Sept. 4 and Sept. 5, Larose said. But standoffs are stressful, demanding and dangerous, and officers don’t have access to the same equipment and methods as a SWAT team would.
Larose said the force is looking at “alternative impact weapons” to respond to violent confrontations; for example, the KRPF has recently started distributing Tasers to some of its Nunavik detachments.
“But in certain situations where there’s an armed individual with a high calibre rifle, those alternative weapons won’t be useful,” he said.
The BEI is currently investigating six other incidents in the region in which civilians were either killed or injured during a police intervention. Two of them—in addition to the Sept. 5 shooting death—took place in Inukjuak.