Starting this week, all Yukon sheriffs will be armed with pepper spray and batons.
The sheriff’s office ran a pilot program last week, giving the defensive weapons to two of its staff as they went about their work.
Today the equipment will be rolled out to all five of the territory’s sheriffs.
“These are just two more tools added to their array of tools that help them perform their job,” said court services director Shauna Curtin.
“They’ve never had to commit an act of violence in the line of duty, but the idea is risk management.”
The sheriff’s job description is different in every Canadian jurisdiction.
In Alberta, court sheriffs also work as highway patrol officers and can issue tickets for speeding.
In BC, sheriffs perform prisoner transfer, a duty left to the RCMP in the Yukon.
The Yukon sheriffs’ main job is to provide security in the courtroom, but they also do civil enforcement.
They serve court documents, notarize documents for court and are involved in seizures and evictions.
During a recent jury trial, two auxiliary staff were obtained to provide security for the jury.
“They are peace officers and not involved in criminal law enforcement,” said Curtin.
“Their role is not to take people down; that’s not what they do.”
Previously, the sheriffs were equipped with flak vests, radio systems, cellphones, satellite phones, handcuffs and handheld metal scanners.
They are also trained in defensive driving, pressure point control tactics, de-escalation techniques and use-of-force procedure.
The sheriff’s office has been looking at implementing the new weapons for the past two years, but it has taken time to form a working policy, said Curtin.
There are liability issues in respect to providing even defensive weaponry in a public place, such as a courtroom.
One of the reasons for beefing up the sheriff’s arsenal was the nationwide increase in security concerns.
In Vancouver, entering the courthouse is almost like trying to board a plane, with everyone having to pass through large metal detectors.
“In the Yukon we are somewhat protected,” said Curtin.
“It’s not Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, but criminals do come here.”
“One of the drivers for us to start examining and reviewing the framework was actually divorce court – not criminal court,” Curtin added.
“It’s volatile, it’s upsetting to people – especially if there are custody issues involved – and sometimes it’s just helpful to have a uniformed presence in the room.”
Contact Chris Oke at
makes fire to survive
A Whitehorse man spent a night alone in the woods after getting lost along the city’s trails Wednesday.
The 30-year-old man used trails near Riverdale to reach a fishing spot on Wednesday afternoon. His wife called police in the morning when he failed to return home.
Seven RCMP officers, a police dog and a Twin Otter plane were dispatched in the four-hour search.
The man was met by another fisherman who was aware of the search. After running into RCMP officers, he explained he got lost on a fork in the trail and decided to make a fire until day broke.
The man was taken to Whitehorse General Hospital and released. (James Munson)