A partner in community wellness

Beverley Roy-Carter
October 31, 2009
By Beverley Roy-Carter
Manitoulin Island is the largest fresh water island in the world and has been policed by the United Chiefs Councils of Manitoulin (UCCM) Police Service since a tripartite agreement was signed in October, 1995. UCCM Anishnaabe Police serve the six member First Nations of the UCCM Tribal Council, policing the communities of Aundeck Omni Kaning, M’Chigeeng, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Whitefish River and Zhiibaahaasing, which have a combined population of about 2,000 permanent residents. An influx of tourists during the summer swells the population by more than 25 per cent. Quick response to emergency calls can be a challenge; the travel distance between Zhiibaahaasing and Whitefish River is some 145 kilometres. Officers effectively conduct highway patrol when responding to calls for service.

Manitoulin Island is the largest fresh water island in the world and has been policed by the United Chiefs Councils of Manitoulin (UCCM) Police Service since a tripartite agreement was signed in October, 1995.

UCCM Anishnaabe Police serve the six member First Nations of the UCCM Tribal Council, policing the communities of Aundeck Omni Kaning, M’Chigeeng, Sheguiandah, Sheshegwaning, Whitefish River and Zhiibaahaasing, which have a combined population of about 2,000 permanent residents. An influx of tourists during the summer swells the population by more than 25 per cent. Quick response to emergency calls can be a challenge; the travel distance between Zhiibaahaasing and Whitefish River is some 145 kilometres. Officers effectively conduct highway patrol when responding to calls for service.

The UCCM service began with 11 officers and two civilian support staff and has now grown to 25 full-time employees, all dedicated to providing and strengthening front line policing. Chief Albert Beaudin and two sergeants lead 16 officers, two special constables (whose primary duties are transporting offenders) and four full-time civilian support staff.

The UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service is proud of its purposeful recruitment strategy, which has resulted in a minuscule employee turnover rate. As with all police services, human resource issues arise from time to time, but are dealt with through a solution-oriented approach to resolving problems.

The UCCM Police Services Commission plays an important and active role in recruiting, selecting and managing police personnel. It places great importance on instilling in staff the importance of cultural values, which have guided the organization in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

While limited budgets are always a concern for Aboriginal police, the service has focused on maximizing and prioritizing available resources to address the myriad of front line operational management issues. It has focused on recruiting qualified personnel in what the service calls its “infrastructure development stage,” which included securing financing to build a new police facility, which opened in April 2006.

The presence of illegal and prescription drugs is a growing problem that continues to plague UCCM communities. A more effective strategy to combat violence and property crimes associated to drug and alcohol abuse is desperately needed.

h2. Justice project

UCCM officers play an important role in the justice program diversion process, which is an alternative to the provincial and federal court system. The majority of cases are currently postcharge diversions referred to the program by the Crown attorney. Pre-charge diversion cases, which are referred directly by officers, in effect by-pass the court system altogether and occur before charges are laid. To be eligible, an offender must be willing to admit responsibility for their action(s) and make amends for their wrongdoing.

Pre-charge diversion is at the discretion of the officer. Some offences, including sexual assault, firearms, child abuse, assault with a weapon, drugs, domestic violence and Criminal Code driving offences, are ineligible.

For the post-charge process, program staff screen possible candidates several days before their first appearance in court and provide a list of possible diversions to the Crown’s office for its consideration. The Crown reviews the case briefs and withdraws charges on approved cases.

h2. Justice panel circle

A justice panel circle is scheduled in the offender’s community, with members chosen from participating First Nations members. Panel members are given copies of the court brief before the circle is held and are tasked with developing a plan of action (‘sentence’) for the offender. Members are guided by principles of traditional Anishnaabe law: accountability, making amends and healing. The program monitors the offender’s plan of action. If the individual does not comply, police can lay the original charge(s).

Diversion significantly reduces the lengthy process associated with laying charges and taking the case through court.

h2. UCCM initiatives

Current projects include recruiting and training an Ojibwe cultural-based civilian oversight body to improve public accountability and reporting. The service is also working to encourage better collaboration between police, social service and other justice system agencies, which was suggested during a UCCM multi-agency gathering last May.

“It gives me great satisfaction knowing that the police service, the police commission and administration have all done their best efforts and the work required to ensure a strong foundation for the future,” noted Beaudin, who will retire next May, in the service’s annual report.

“Success in general will undoubtedly be measured in many ways and the meaning of success will be different for any person. From a police organizational perspective, for example, one aspect of our success may be the fact that the UCCM Police Services Commission and its administration has been able to secure... tangible, physical resources such as a newly constructed building, new vehicles and new equipment.

“We have also grown over the past 10 plus years in other intangible resource areas which are equally, if not more important, than these physical resources – that is, our human capital potential.

“Certainly, while more vehicles and new equipment are all important tools for police work, this is not as important as the effective management of the personnel who use them. Human resource management and strategies of the future will require an even greater understanding of human behaviour, required increased training in leadership and supervision and will require a proactive approach in its overall administration.

“This will be critical for the next chief of police, if the service is to succeed in its employees maintaining a decent level of job satisfaction – as there is seemingly ever increasing demands placed upon them each and every year. Most simply stated though, the final qualitative measures of success will be the overall level of public satisfaction that the police organization receives from the public.

“We have noticed the number of incidents reported to police continues to climb; some statistics continue to persist in the areas of domestic violence, serious assaults and the prevalence and rippling effects of drug crimes. Such crimes often result in an increase in the number of ‘lockups’ or detentions that we do in the interests of immediate public safety, but having a large number of lockups each year is not a true measure of police service success.

“A single agency alone, such as the police, cannot effectively address all the underlying issues contributing to sometimes alarming rates of crime. We need a comprehensive and integrated approach in all our partner service agencies. This will empower citizens to help themselves in choosing positive and healthy lifestyle choices. The end result will be safer and healthier communities.”

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