The chief of Saskatchewan’s only First Nations police department would like to see the service declared essential, not just a program.
File Hills Police Chief, Lennard Busch, was pleased to see the federal government substantially increase funding in a new five-year plan unveiled yesterday by Public Safety Minister, Ralph Goodale.
Busch says the extra money will help keep the department up-to-date with equipment and will also help him retain officers, but he says the force is still not regarded on the same level as RCMP or municipal police departments.
“We no longer wanted to be treated like a program, we wanted to be recognized like the RCMP and the OPP, and the fact is, we are here to stay,” he said.
The First Nations Police Program has been in existence since 1991. The File Hills Police Service has been in operation since 2000. Since then, it has seen a reduction in crime on reserves served by the service and a better working relationship with the communities and their leadership.
“Absolutely, and I think we certainly enjoy a lot of goodwill and our communities are happy that we are here. I think they look at us as a major step towards self-determination for First Nations people,” he said.
The File Hills Police Service has 16 employees, including two corporals, six constables, five special constables and three support workers. Busch would like to add a couple of more officers to help cover their large service area, which includes Peepeekisis, Okanese, Starblanket, Little Black Bear and Carry the Kettle.
In addition to File Hills, the First Nations Police Program provides funding for 33 community policing arrangements in Saskatchewan, where RCMP members are assigned to police certain reserves.
Funding for the program nationwide will increase by $291 million over five years, which is a 56 per cent increase from current levels.
There are 185 police service agreements across Canada, which include 38 self-administered departments. The program is cost-shared with the provinces.
The provincial government has indicated it supports the funding increase, but has not yet spelled out its funding plans.
(PHOTO: File Hills Police cruisers. Photo courtesy of filehillspolice.ca)