A retired RCMP officer is calling for an investigation into the behaviour of North Star Security guards at Centre Square Mall after witnessing what he called “extreme aggression” toward an indigenous man and woman by two guards.

Bradley Enge said he was walking toward the Northern Heights apartment building on 49 Street on the afternoon of March 22 when two security guards stormed out of the mall doors toward an indigenous man and woman on the sidewalk.

Enge said the pair was sitting in an alcove by the former Payday Loans office.

When he turned around to see what was going on, one of the security guards was pouring out the contents of what appeared to be a Private Stock wine bottle onto the street, he said.

While Enge didn’t see the bottle in the man or woman’s hands when he first walked by, he believes it was theirs and suggested it could have been concealed under their clothing.

The second security guard then told the man and woman to leave the area, pointing them in the direction of the Quality Inn and Franklin Avenue, Enge said.

“Their body language and demeanour was extremely aggressive and intimidating,” Enge said of the two security guards. “I asked the security officers where they got the authority to enforce the Liquor Act, public consumption or possession of open liquor in a public place.”

According to Enge, the security guards told him they had the authority because the man and woman were on private property.

“The two aboriginal people were in a public place,” Enge said. “They were on a public sidewalk.”

Enge has since contacted RCMP, providing a statement about the events which he shared with Yellowknifer.

He’s concerned about the “abuse of authority” at the mall and whether Yellowknife RCMP are “supporting, encouraging, turning a blind eye to or tolerating this flaunting of unlawful conduct,” his statement says.

According to RCMP Insp. Matt Peggs, G Division is investigating the issue.

“Mall security is responsible for securing the mall but they’re not peace officers,” Peggs said when asked whether security guards at the mall have the authority to confiscate and dispose of liquor on a sidewalk or in the mall. “They don’t have authorities under the Northwest Territories Liquor Act. Only peace officers do.”

Peggs wouldn’t say whether RCMP has received similar complaints about mall security.

Yellowknifer reached out to North Star Security requesting an interview but was provided an e-mail statement signed “management” instead.

“North Star has been in consultation with the RCMP on this topic and will continue to work closely with the RCMP to mitigate issues around the mall to create a safe environment for Yellowknife residents,” it said. “The mall has a zero tolerance policy regarding alcohol and drug use on its property and they were asked to vacate. The mall is at a tough location on the corner between the day shelter and liquor store.”

Enge said he is also concerned by what he believes was a retractable baton on the belt of one of the security officers on March 22, as he does not believe there are laws in the NWT allowing security guards to carry them.

Yellowknifer saw a picture of the alleged baton, taken by Enge, but cannot verify the object.

Yellowknifer asked Peggs whether mall security guards are allowed to carry such batons but he would not say and said it is in the criminal code.

The criminal code shows batons called Kiyoga Batons or Steel Cobras, “and any similar device consisting of a manually triggered telescoping spring-loaded steel whip” are prohibited weapons. It also states carriers of legally-sanctioned batons need to be either licensed or supervised by someone with a licence.

North Star said “there is no regulations in the NWT governing personal protection equipment for guards even when they have the appropriate security training.”

This isn’t the first incident to happen at Centre Square Mall.

Last week, Yellowknifer reported on a fight that broke out between a pregnant woman and the mother of a security guard after the woman asked to use the mall’s bathroom.

The incident came just before North Star took over security in both the upper and lower parts of the mall.

Enge said he has heard complaints from other Northern Heights residents about security guards allegedly tackling people to the ground and dragging them out of the mall.

Lydia Bardak, a well-known social justice advocate, said she has stopped walking through the mall this week because she’s received an overwhelming amount of complaints of abuse there.

She said security issues need to dealt with more humanely.

“I worry that when we use a very heavy-handed approach, people will resist that and you could end up in a scuffle that’s going to get somebody hurt,” Bardak said.

She suggested security staff could use better training with how to de-escalate situations and co-operate with people who are asked to leave the mall, or that a mental health worker or washroom attendant could be hired for the mall.

Enge said he is still waiting to hear back from RCMP about what is being done about the issue.

“I’m still worried, because there seems to be a trend developing here,” he said. “There’s no proactive monitoring about the excessiveness of the use of force I see taking place in the Centre Square Mall area with people who frequent that mall, a certain class of people.”

While he said he realizes it is private property, he wants to see modifications to how the mall is managed.

“At the end of the day, the laws need to be enforced,” he said. “Oversight needs to be implemented.”