Lakeshore happy Police Act will raise profile
South Peace News
Lakeshore Regional Police Service in the High Prairie area is glad that the First Nations service will soon be recognized in the Alberta Police Act.
Proposed changes to the Police Act would formally recognize First Nations police services in legislation, presented by Solicitor General and Justice Minister Kaycee Madu, says a news release Oct. 21.
“With this legislation, the Government of Alberta acknowledges the valuable role First Nations policing plays in keeping their communities safe,” says Madu, who took on his new role Aug. 25, 2020.
“These changes will ensure First Nations police services and the communities they serve can benefit from our efforts to modernize policing in Alberta.”
That’s good news for Lakeshore, one of three First Nation police services in Alberta.
It’s a long time coming, says Dale Cox, Lakeshore chief of police.
“Self-administered First Nations police services will be recognized,” says Cox, who spoke with South Peace News on Oct. 27, five years to the day that Lakeshore officially opened is headquarters in Driftpile.
“We will be moving towards equal footing with all other police services in the province.
“If we are required to meet, and we do meet, all the same standards that all police services in Alberta have to meet, then we should be recognized in the Police Act as a fully qualified and competent police service in the same way all other police services are recognized in the Act.”
He says Lakeshore has been seeking that status since the service started in 2008.
Lakeshore was established by the Lesser Slave Lake Indian Regional Council that serves Driftpile First Nation, Sucker Creek First Nation, Kapawe’no First Nation, Swan River First Nation, along with Sawridge First Nation in Slave Lake.
The police service has full police officer authority as granted under the authority of the Alberta Police Act and consists of a chief of police, two inspectors, two sergeants, eight constables, two clerical staff and a civilian crime prevention co-ordinator.
Self-administered First Nation police services currently are governed under the Alberta Police Act and must follow all the provisions of the Act.
“All our officers are trained at the RCMP Training Academy in Regina,” Cox says.
“They complete all the same courses and graduate with an RCMP certificate that is the same as all RCMP officers in Canada.”
He trusts the upgraded status would give the local police service a stronger position with the Government of Canada.
“On the larger national perspective, this gives First Nation police services in Alberta an opportunity to open conversations with the federal government who also fund First Nation policing,” Cox says.
Lakeshore receives 52 per cent of its funding from the federal government and 48 per cent from the provincial government.
He hopes the move by Alberta will persuade the federal government to “also recognize self-administered First Nation policing as an essential service and look at establishing long-term sustainable policing agreements with these communities”.
“This would then provide guaranteed long-term policing service to First Nations,” Cox says.
“To date our agreements with the federal and provincial governments have been year to year with no guarantee or requirement they would be renewed.
“It is a real impairment in our recruiting and retention of employees and also does not lend to any confidence from the communities that their safety is being considered.”
Cox is waiting to see the final wording of the changes to the Police Act to give him a better idea of time lines for those changes and how specifically it will effect the day-to-day operations of Lakeshore.