One day last fall, RCMP Sgt. Ron Russell, the top cop in Wynyard, Sask., stopped in at a local barbershop for a haircut when he noticed the owner and his friends indulging in a whiskey. “Are you closed?” asked Russell, who notes the law permits a proprietor to drink in his business only after hours. “Er, yeah,” said the barber. Russell left without a haircut and reviewed the legislation; the next day, he stopped in again to advise the barber he should lock his door next time he drinks. It was just one in a series of by-the-book pronouncements that have earned Russell a reputation as the east Saskatchewan town’s Dudley Do-Right—and it’s making the local bar owners angry.
Since last July, when the sergeant moved to town, the number of impaired driving charges and liquor licence violations have more than doubled; indeed, drunk driving charges in the area rose from 29 charges in 2007 to 48 last year. Russell admits more people are being charged because he’s being more vigilant, but he can’t figure out why that’s upsetting people. Now, “people are just coming in and having two or three drinks, then taking a box of beer home,” says Russell. “We actually think that’s responsible.”
But the bar owners say the stepped-up monitoring is bad for business. “I think we need a new sergeant,” says Larry Bozek, owner of Wynyard’s Southshore Motor Lodge. “People are scared to go and have three beer because they know when they leave the bar they’re probably going to get an impaired.” Bozek says his business has slumped 30 per cent since Russell doubled the number of bar walk-throughs conducted by his Mounties. “It’s like hunting deer in a game preserve—they’re bound to get one,” he says.
To fight back, Bozek and others have formed a delegation that will complain to Wynyard’s mayor and council this week. Not that they’re likely to get any satisfaction. “We have no authority on telling the police how to do their jobs,” says Wynyard town administrator Jason Chorneyko. “Honestly, the outcome will be nothing.”