Nunavik police chief wants more tools for crisis intervention
April 17, 2023 By Jeff Pelletier, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Apr. 17, 2023, Nunavik, Que. – The chief of the Nunavik Police Service says mobile crisis intervention services are needed in every community in the region due to the high number of mental health and alcohol-related calls officers are responding to.
Larose made those comments in an interview Friday following a ceremony at Rideau Hall in Ottawa, where Gov. Gen. Mary Simon named him an officer of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.
He was one of 118 police officers from across Canada to be honoured this week by Simon and RCMP commissioner Mike Duheme.
According to Larose, 80 per cent of police calls in Nunavik are mental health-related, and 95 per cent are alcohol-related.
With a lack of necessary social services to handle many of those matters, police are called to respond, and people are arrested and brought to jail to sober up.
Last year, two women died after being arrested for public intoxication. In both incidents, coroners found alcohol consumption to be key factors in those deaths and the officers involved were not criminally charged.
Larose said Nunavik police have been piloting a new mobile intervention team in Puvirnituq, in which a police officer partners with a social worker to respond to calls.
This project has produced positive results so far, Larose said, and he wants to expand it to all 14 Nunavik villages.
“It’s a police officer with a social worker, they’re working together in the same car, the same patrol and they answer all the calls from health issues,” Larose said.
“It really helps, we have good statistics and when we intervene in those calls, the social worker takes over, so we don’t necessarily have more calls afterwards.”
In her remarks to attendees of the award ceremony, Simon also acknowledged the expanded role police officers take on due to a lack of social services.
“You have consistently broadened your role when needed – as community ambassadors, social workers, paramedics and more – a fact I recognize is not the ideal situation,” Simon told the guests from the law enforcement profession.
Larose also said Nunavik police need new stations in all 14 villages.
Hilda Snowball, Kativik Regional Government’s chairperson, echoed Larose’s comments.
She said KRG is looking to improve police infrastructure and support the expansion of intervention services.
“We have to plan ahead to have more new infrastructures, especially with communities that are lacking space at the police station,” Snowball said.
“So that is in the works: we will be discussing for other communities to receive their police stations.”
Despite the issues, Snowball and Larose spoke on some success of Nunavik police Friday.
Specifically, Larose said police have embraced improvements such as mandatory body camera usage, and improved de-escalation in the five years since he took on the top job.
For Snowball, she said she was happy that her region’s police department earned some visibility through Larose’s award.
Larose said being Nunavik police chief has been the most rewarding position he’s held as a police officer.
“It’s a great honour for me and it’s a great honour to have Hilda with me also to represent Nunavik because I’m in my 43rd year of policing,” Larose said.
“It was the most grateful and most enjoying experience of my career having this challenge in Nunavik.”
– Nunatsiaq News
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