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When does “annoying” become dangerous?

Rankin Inlet RCMP policy draws concern
Stewart Burnett is editor of Kivalliq News. Photo courtesy of Stewart Burnett

The Rankin Inlet RCMP’s policy of pushing back on people who call the cops on “annoying” drunk neighbours got some reasonable push back itself on social media this past week.

Cst. Zac Roy told hamlet council Feb. 14 that the department was aiming to put a damper on people calling the RCMP to put friends or relatives in the drunk tank if they were “just being annoying.”

He explained that the RCMP are interested in criminal offences, not so much “people calling in saying, ‘I want this person in the drunk tank.’ We’ll go to the house, see what’s going on, and then if the person is just being annoying or won’t go to sleep, we’re not just taking them to the drunk tank anymore.”

Being drunk in your own home, of course, is not a crime. It is anyone’s right to get as tanked as they want in their living room. This policy from the RCMP hinges entirely on what exactly “annoying” means.

We have to remember that the RCMP have been around the block: no one knows better the context and circumstances of these drunk-tank calls than the cops. Roy no doubt has experience deciphering the differences between someone who is rowdy but harmless and someone who is an actual threat.

Still, something about the RCMP’s policy doesn’t quite ease the nerves, as intoxicated people can be so unpredictable and volatile.

More than one commenter pointed out that what starts as annoying can quickly become aggressive, violent and dangerous.

“It’s fair,” wrote one comment. “But what happens if I have no choice but to physically assault someone to get them to leave me alone. Will they charge me?”

Another comment said, “In my experience, and that of my neighbours, drunks start off as annoying but then inevitably in many situations the drunks start to get out of hand, such as leading to threats, acts of violence against other people and damage to property.”

These are sentient concerns. At the same time, you can’t just toss every intoxicated person in the drunk tank, especially if they’re not committing any sort of offence.

As for navigating that grey area, it’s not my expertise, and I’ll trust the police.

If I end up calling the RCMP on a drunk person who was concerning me, I would give the benefit of the doubt that the RCMP knew what decision to make and accept it if they did nothing.

I would probably still push the couch in front of my door, stay up until the morning and have some sort of weapon available, though.