A Yellowknife RCMP member is touring various detachments in the N.W.T. to encourage other members to use an alternative method of policing, one designed to keep certain cases out of the court system and keep people from getting criminal records.
"Charging offenders is not the only option out there," says Cpl. Jason Doucet, a restorative justice officer with the RCMP. "We should also be about second chances."
Doucet is a practitioner of alternative justice, a system in which, in lieu of court proceedings, an offender meets a justice committee made up of residents from the offender's community.
The committee members, as well as the victim, speak out about how the offender's crime has affected the community. Then the committee recommends a remedy for the offender, which can range from a letter of apology to community service.
"Let them deal with the problems and some of the offences and try to find a result so that it doesn't happen anymore - that's the road we're onto," says Doucet.
It's a system that Doucet admits has been met with some skepticism from other officers who fear offenders are being let off easy, and is not as well known among senior officers.
But the method does not override the usual investigative process, Doucet stresses.
"We have to investigate the matter right to the end, need to have enough information to take it to court before we can do a diversion," he says. "And the offender has to agree to the diversion process."
'The kids never got in trouble again'
Doucet says the process is more ideally suited to minor crimes such as theft or vandalism.
And though he says the RCMP does not have statistics to prove that the process has helped decrease recidivism in the territory, Doucet points to an example from his own experience in Whati in the late 1990s.
As he describes it, three kids did some damage to the community's elders complex. After being apprehended, the kids met with the chief and other members of the community, who recommended they shovel snow around the complex and do other maintenance work.
"After my tours … I asked about the kids. [During] my three years in Behchoko, the kids never got in trouble again."