Yellowknife's RCMP detachment commander says he recognizes the emotional toll a resident experienced after an officer drew his weapon on her – but feels the officer followed training and procedures.
Appearing before city councillors on Monday, Insp Alex Laporte said: "We understand it is quite unsettling to have contact with a police officer in these circumstances."
Laporte, presenting monthly police statistics to council, continued: "[It's] quite unsettling for a citizen to be exposed to this, quite unsettling for a police officer to have to come to that resolution – where they feel that the risk is so elevated that they need to use the tools they carry to protect themselves, and by default protect the public."
As first reported by CBC, resident Mika Kondo described sitting in her vehicle on the evening of December 3 when an officer who appeared to be undercover pointed his weapon at her.
She said the incident left her experiencing nightmares and afraid of police. "I don't think he should have pulled a gun out right away without knowing if I am the [person he was looking for]. He threatened me and traumatized an innocent person," Kondo told the CBC.
During questioning from councillors on Monday, Laporte said the incident happened during a "highly fluid situation" as police responded to reports of violence between drug dealers at a nearby Yellowknife apartment complex. One drug dealer remained unaccounted for at the time.
Officers believed suspects may be returning to the apartment complex and, on arriving on scene, found a vehicle that matched in "fine detail" one associated with a suspect, Laporte said.
Laporte described the officer approaching the vehicle with his duty pistol unholstered, drawing the weapon. When the officer realized Kondo, inside the vehicle, was not a suspect, Laporte said he apologized and moved on.
Laporte said the member followed his training and standard procedures, approaching the vehicle in a "safe manner."
Police officers "have no place to be complacent," Laporte added, referring to two incidents last year in which guns were fired in the city.
"We continue to have a drug market here that attracts drug dealers from down south," he said. "The world of policing has changed. In our environment there are daily reminders not to be complacent around anything, around any calls for service."
Councillor Steve Payne said on Monday he had "no doubt" that the officer "used whatever experience he had at that point to make the right decision."
An investigation into the original drug-related incident has concluded, Laporte said, adding the officer apologized on the scene and the RCMP had subsequently contacted Kondo. (Kondo could not immediately be reached on Monday.)
Providing a summary of 2019 policing statistics to council, Laporte said Yellowknife RCMP had 11,822 calls for service over the past 12 months. Of those, 64 were related to drug trafficking and 57 to drug possession.
The majority of calls – 6,144 – were for disturbances or mischief.
Correction: January 22, 2020 – 5:46 MT. Originally, we reported Insp Laporte had stated "an investigation into the incident" had concluded. RCMP have since clarified that the detachment commander was referring to the original drug-related incident, not the specific incident involving the woman in the vehicle.