Pelican Narrows now has a community safety officer (CSO) patrolling the community.

The Peter Ballantyne Cree Nation (PBCN) recently got approval from the Government of Saskatchewan to employ a CSO to work in the community. CSO’s are peace officers who have the ability to enforce certain laws along with local bylaws. They also work to support RCMP when possible.

Horace Ratt, a retired police officer and the current chief administrative officer for PBCN is currently working as the CSO for Pelican Narrows. He told MBC Radio News much of his efforts so far have been focused on reaching out to community members and educating them about the program, while also building relationships with other people working on the frontlines.

“The main goal for me is to be visible in the community and just show the community how we can make that connect with our service providers, with the RCMP, with the clinic and other support services in the community,” he said.

Ratt said he has also been talking to people in the community about working as a CSO. He explained PBCN is hoping to hire two people who will be able serve in the role full time, Ratt added he has spoken with people who have expressed interest in the job. He is also encouraging anyone who is interested in serving as a CSO to contact him.

For the time being the CSO program, which is being funded by the First Nation, will just be operating in Pelican Narrows. Ratt said this is because the community is where the most calls for service to police are coming from currently.

Going forward Ratt said they are hoping to expand the CSO program to more PBCN communities. He explained this could involve the CSO officers travelling from a central location to communities where it is not possible to have a permanent presence.

“Ideally we want to cover off most of the PBCN communities,” he said.

Ratt has been serving in the CSO position for a number of weeks, however he has already been quite active in providing support to the RCMP in a range of ways. This has included being available to assist police as a Cree language speaker. Ratt said he also has helped RCMP execute a mental health act warrant in the community and was able to assist further by helping to escort the person in custody down to Prince Albert.

“So instead of taking two (RCMP) members out of service, I was able to fill in the role and follow the RCMP to Prince Albert and make sure the subject was evaluated and then have a (RCMP) member available for the community,” he said.

So far Ratt said the response from community members to the CSO program has been primarily positive with many happy to see that steps are being taken to deal with some of the safety issues in the community.

“They’re excited, they’re looking forward for this program to be more concreate and established and having that person in uniform definitely creates a safer environment,” he said.

(Top Photo by Michael Joel-Hansen.)