Nineteen residents of the Little Pine and Poundmaker First Nations have begun training to become community safety officers.

The community safety officer training program was launched Monday with a celebration at Chief Little Pine School.

Gavin Nash, the program manager for policy and governance with the provincial policing and safety services, Chiefs Wayne Semaganis from Little Pine and Poundmaker Chief Dwayne Antoine were all in attendance at the launch.

Little Pine Councillor Richard Chekosis helped spearhead the project to improve safety in both communities and says the initiative began with community meetings on safety issues.

“The main goal is to try to reduce crime,” Chekosis says. “We’re trying to take back our reserves from these people who are doing harm.”

This program is part of the Little Pine and Poundmaker First Nations’ community security initiative and is currently a pilot program. Chekosis says the program will continue if enough people graduate.

Successful community safety officers will be able to enforce the Alcohol and Gaming Regulations Act, the Traffic Safety Act and other provincial statutes tailored to their communities.

The training course will run until December with two of the weeks being offered online by the Canadian Police Knowledge Network and four weeks training taking place at Chief Little Pine School.

(PHOTO: Participants in the community safety officer course at the Chief Little Pine School. Photo courtesy of Doug Cuthand.)