Sudbury

Anti-police sentiment makes job 'scarier and more difficult' for First Nations police

The outrage over police brutality in the United States is being felt by officers protecting First Nations in northern Ontario. And they think the solution for police everywhere is something they've been doing for decades. 

This is the first part in a series on First Nations policing in northern Ontario

Anishinabek Police Sgt. Chantal Larocque (Erik White/CBC )

Anishinabek Police Sergeant Chantal Larocque fights crime in the three First Nations she patrols.

But with a smile and a sympathetic ear, she also fights a deep mistrust of police and government authorities in Nipissing, Dokis and Wahnapitae First Nations. 

Larocque says it feels that work has been set back a bit with the recent high profile killings of black men by American police in recent months.

"It's made our jobs scarier for sure and more difficult," she says. 

Larocque also worries that anti-police sentiment will mute the calls by First Nations police to end years of chronic underfunding. 

"When they talk about defund the police, I mean what are they going to take away from me? We barely have vehicles," she says.

(Erik White/CBC )

Larocque and the five other officers at the Nipissing detachment often work alone and face drives of more than an hour to 911 calls in Dokis and Wahnapitae.

"I'm limited in terms of backup, therefore, I might have to use more force should the situation arrive, but the other thing is I can always leave, if you're in that position, right, where you can back away from something," she says. 

"There's no shame in taking a step back."

In the first part of a series looking at First Nations policing in northern Ontario, we meet Sgt. Chantal Larocque of the Anishinabek Police Service. 7:06

Anishinabek acting police chief Marc Lesage says his force isn't "immune" to those kinds of dangerous situations, but their close connection to the community makes them easier to diffuse.

"They're going to know the officer who comes to the door by name. Because we're small, because we're from the communities that we police," he says. 

"Buzzword community policing, but it's alive and well for us."

Faron Whiteye, chief of UCCM police covering six Manitoulin Island First Nations, says Indigenous police have an excellent record when it comes to "use of force" situations.

He says that's a happy side effect of often not having any back-up. 

"That's kind of an off shoot of the budgeting constraints. The officers get very good at the gift of gab and getting down to the heart of the matter," says Whiteye.

"This is our community member... we have to spend more time talking to them."

About the Author

Erik White

journalist

Erik White is a CBC journalist based in Sudbury. He covers a wide range of stories about northern Ontario. Connect with him on Twitter @erikjwhite. Send story ideas to erik.white@cbc.ca

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