Whitehorse Daily Star

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Photo by Vince Fedoroff

PURSUING PROGRESSIVE POLICING – Kwanlin Dün First Nation Chief Doris Bill speaks at a news conference at the Nàwät’àų̀n Tuesday morning announcing the signing of the policing letter of expectation with the RCMP.

Deal will improve community policing: chief

The Yukon RCMP have signed a “letter of expectation” with Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) promising a revitalization of policing under three dedicated officers.

By Whitehorse Star on July 22, 2020

The Yukon RCMP have signed a “letter of expectation” with Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) promising a revitalization of policing under three dedicated officers.

“We are here to sign a document that – for the first time – allows Kwanlin Dün to shape how policing will look in our community,” Kwanlin Dün Chief Doris Bill said Tuesday.

“The document between the RCMP and Kwanlin Dün provides the nuts and bolts to a new policing philosophy; one that serves the cultural realities and needs of our community.”

The letter of understanding was signed under a Community Tripartite Agreement made on June 12 among the KDFN and the Yukon and federal governments.

This agreement falls under the First Nations Policing Program, a federal initiative to enhance police services to First Nation and Inuit communities.

It will send 17 dedicated RCMP officers to Yukon First Nations communities, with the federal and territorial governments splitting the cost.

Three police officers stationed in Kwanlin Dün will follow the stipulations set out in the letter of expectation.

The two officers currently stationed in Kwanlin Dün now fall under this agreement, with a third officer dispatched “very soon,” according to Scott Sheppard, the Yukon RCMP’s chief superintendent.

The letter was signed at the Kwanlin Dün Potlach House on Tuesday morning. It prioritizes communication, relationship building, KDFN youth partnerships and community safety.

Once the officers are stationed in Whitehorse, they’ll be required to meet with the KDFN every three months to discuss the implementation of the letter’s requirements.

This accountability mechanism is an important step for the future of policing, Bill said. The letter of expectation is a “living document” that may change according to the needs of the community.

The letter sets out a number of requirements for officers.

To build relationships with the community, officers are expected to “interact and be visible with the public on a daily basis.”

They will attend a minimum of five community and cultural events per year; patrol the community twice per shift; work with vulnerable persons; and sit on boards and committees as required.

To engage with youth, RCMP officers will organize and participate in recreational activities like sporting and community events. 

The letter encourages officers to plan and participate in “cops vs. community/youth” sporting competitions and spearhead community safety campaigns, like anti-bullying and substance-abuse awareness presentations, in schools.

A “community consultative group” will be established and meet every three months, in between the meetings with the three officers, to address community policing matters. It will consist of representatives from the KDFN’s Justice department, Community Safety Officer program, elders council and youth council.

Bill is optimistic that collaboration between the KDFN and RCMP will improve community policing.

“I have hope and trust in our commitment to work together to bring this new vision to reality,” she said.

“We welcome the three dedicated RCMP to our community and will extend a helping hand to them. 

“We will be teaching them about who we are and where we came from so they understand our needs and help ensure a safer future for everyone, something that I believe is critical.”

The KDFN will provide the three officers with cultural awareness training. Establishing an informed relationship will be pivotal to establishing trust between officers and KDFN citizens, Bill explained.

“Our history and the role the RCMP played in it, it’s been a difficult history; it’s been a troubled history,” Bill told the Star following the signing.

Residential schools, the building of the Alaska Highway and the first relocations are all in the living memory of KDFN citizens.

“Although Kwanlin Dün has done a lot to repair that relationship, we still have a bit of a ways to go,” Bill said.

Sheppard said the letter of expectation arrives at a time when the RCMP, as a whole, are undergoing changes. 

Across the country, Black Lives Matter protests are dovetailing with calls to defund the police in favour of funding a wider spectrum of social services. 

“This is a really interesting time in policing right now, especially in the RCMP,” Sheppard said.

“There’s a lot of pent-up frustration and desire to see change, change in policing, and I think this letter of expectation is going to clearly spell out what those expectations are and provide, equally important, an accountability process to make sure we meet those.”

Bill said policing services should be adjusted to better reflect the needs of individual communities.

“I think that this whole notion of defunding the police – I don’t necessarily agree with that notion. We need to reform the police and the police need to create space for community-born initiatives like ours, because we know what we need,” Bill said.

The Community Safety Officer program, for example, was built “by the community for the community,” and has been lauded for its success. 

Bill told the Star she has fielded calls and interviews from Alaska, New Zealand and ABC in New York about the community officer program.

“People are interested in developing new ways to police their community,” Bill said.

To better establish the relationship between First Nations and the RCMP, Bill would like to see less officer turnaround in the communities.

“I think that conversation needs to happen at the top,” Bill said.

“We put a lot of time and effort into making them a part of the community and then they have to go, so I think that’s going to be a conversation we’re going to have to have.”

Bill said there are some other RCMP policies that “need to change” to better fit the needs of the communities they serve.

Sheppard conceded that the Yukon RCMP service hasn’t met the needs of the community to the best of its ability.

“I have to be honest: I think in recent years, we haven’t been as effective at it as possible,” Sheppard said.

Sheppard said some policies have developed within the RCMP because of safety, security and labour considerations.

“The pendulum has shifted quite a bit in the last few years for very good reasons,” Sheppard said.

“It’s created organizations, created police forces that are appearing increasingly paramilitary; that can be a little off-putting to community members.”

Bill said in the interview she thinks it is possible to repair the distrust KDFN citizens may have of police.

“A lot of it is going to depend on the RCMP’s willingness to change,” Bill said.

“I think there are some communities, like ours, who are willing to and are up to the challenge to build that relationship.

“This agreement wouldn’t have been possible 10 years ago … so I think times are changing.”

Comments (8)

Up 30 Down 4

Question on Jul 25, 2020 at 7:36 pm

I'm happy I don't live in a neighborhood needing dedicated RCMP officers.

Great they are working together, but the blaming really needs to stop. How can it be solely the RCMP's fault when the only neighborhoods needing this level of policing are KDFN's?

First Nations should police themselves. That way, they could develop all the policies just the way they want them.

Up 29 Down 2

Just saying on Jul 24, 2020 at 11:22 am

I have seen this program work in the past they had an RCMP officer work with this community and as soon as everyone got to know him they transferred him. What guarantee does KDFN citizens have that this will never happen again? Also to begin healing each other it must start within yourself and the leadership.

Up 43 Down 4

My opinion on Jul 23, 2020 at 8:38 pm

So I had a B&E and the cops were too busy to deal with it. The only thing they could do was give me a file number to take to my insurance company.
How do we sign up to get three cops signed to our neighbourhoods doing rounds twice a shift and taking our kids to sports? MY LORD. It's crazy town.

Up 31 Down 3

My opinion on Jul 23, 2020 at 8:34 pm

We will be paying big time later, like every other policing and social program that have tried to solve their problems. The only one that can fix things is them.

Up 44 Down 3

Crunch on Jul 22, 2020 at 10:10 pm

" A lot of it depends on the RCMP's willingness to change" strange because 98% of the population lives their lives with little or no exchange from policing departments. 2% of the population doesn't get it and have no interest in doing so. The new game in town is to beat on our establishments who are forced to deal with the problem. Sick.

Up 48 Down 4

drum on Jul 22, 2020 at 9:54 pm

The RCMP must be fed up with policing the First Nations lands ie: Qwanlin Dun and the Homeless Shelter. They should have their own First Nations police force doing the work on their own land and our own East Hastings in Whitehorse.

Up 52 Down 4

drum on Jul 22, 2020 at 8:32 pm

They should get their own police in their community. Not RCMP - they are hog tied to do anything in First Nations lands - they're are damned if they do and damned if they do not. They cannot win. First Nations should police themselves!!!!!!!!!

Up 41 Down 11

Jc on Jul 22, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Another test run program. How many of these have I seen over the last 50 years. Must be some extra money in the liberal kitty bank.

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