Welcome to Harlem on the Prairies
Story by John Stackhouse. Photos by John Morstad
The Globe and Mail, November 3, 2001
Part 9 of 9: DAYLIGHT BREAKS
Shortly after first light, when the last of the parties has ended and even the most hardened drinkers cannot lift themselves from the floor, Louttit and Hoover return to the police headquarters for another cup of coffee. It's their second break in nine hours, and they still have three hours to go.
After parking in the underground lot, they stand in front of a camera and the dispatcher upstairs sends down an elevator to whisk them up to the interrogation rooms and drunk tank. Each cell, the size of a small household washroom, is filled with the likes of Hair Spray Jerry, who is fast asleep on a cot. The only other object in his cell is an aluminum toilet.
There are 20 men and one woman in the drunk tank and, judging by the names, 16 are native. Louttit and Hoover have booked 11 of them - an average night, they say, perhaps even a bit slow for a payday Friday.
"Policing by its very nature means force because you're making people comply. You're designated by the society that hires you to keep the peace."
Const. Ernie Louttits
Saskatoon Police Service
The big Cree cop shrugs as he takes a coffee and sits down in the staff room. The criticisms, he has just about heard them all: that he's an "apple" (red outside, white inside) and arrests Indians to please the white folk across the river, perhaps even to protect his own suburban lifestyle.
"Here's the bottom line on race," he says. "When someone calls the police, they want the police and they need the police. When we get there, they're happy we're there. Policing by its very nature means force because you're making people comply. You're designated by the society that hires you to keep the peace."
This is Ernie Louttit's calling; he hopes that it will keep him on the street, and on the west side, for years. The thrill of a chase, the joy in helping his society's victims - for him, no other job will do.
Dean Hoover is not so sure. He has applied for a position on the drug squad, where he can do more sleuthing and work better hours.
In the weeks ahead, he will get his transfer. As well, Jerry and Diane will reconcile yet again. She will refuse to testify and the charges against him will be dropped.
Bobby Johnson, the hermit, will pass away and be found on his mattress in front of the TV. Judy and her four kids will move to a new house and her brother Keith will wind up back in jail accused of aggravated assault and attempted murder. He was charged after a man opened fire on a barroom crowd. Louttit was on duty just a few blocks away, and got to the scene in time to wrestle the shooter to the ground.
But for now, the toughest pair on the Indian beat are just trying to get through the night.
When daylight comes and his shift is over, Louttit will head home, go for a run to clear his mind and then, after some sleep, play with his kids. He is eager to help his daughter with her pitching.
Hoover also will go home for some sleep before heading to a rodeo competition south of the city. He won't think much about the images of another Friday-night shift, of Hair Spray Jerry or big drunk John, the 16-year-old Indian baiter.
At the end of their 12-hour shift, he and Louttit go their separate ways, knowing that they have done their job.
If they are lucky, they will get to spend the remaining hours finishing off a pile of paperwork. But another call from the west side comes in and, even though it's not their turn, the dispatcher assigns it to Louttit and Hoover. She has been told that there might be trouble.
As the sun comes up over Saskatoon, the two men check their revolvers, adjust their bullet-proof jackets and head for the elevator, where, for a moment, they stand and listen to a shrill solitary cry from the drunk tank.
"Let me out," the voice calls. "NOW!"