Email this articleE-mail this story  Discuss this articleWrite letter to editor  Discuss this articleOrder a classified ad

Yk accused of hoarding cops

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Mar 07/05) - MLAs representing remote hamlets and villages want to know how police can justify putting an RCMP officer in Yellowknife schools, while some smaller communities must do without any full-time police presence.

On Thursday, Nunakput MLA Calvin Pokiak told the legislative assembly he is worried someone will be hurt or killed because there are no police officers stationed in Sachs Harbour, a community of 150 people on Banks Island about 400 km north of Inuvik.

"By the time the RCMP organize a response team... the question becomes whether or not they will be there in time to be of assistance in an emergency situation," said Pokiak.

Pokiak said RCMP only visit Sachs about once every six weeks. Sachs used to have a one-person RCMP post but Pokiak said it was dismantled several years ago after two-person units were made mandatory. Last month, Finance Minister Floyd Roland announced that the government was putting an extra $1.4 million into its budget to pay for 10 new RCMP positions.

The issue of community policing came to a head after Pokiak and Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya read a story in last Wednesday's Yellowknifer about an RCMP decision to a appoint a full-time liaison officer for Yellowknife schools.

The RCMP made the decision after a student was caught with a knife at a school Feb. 8. The liaison officer's main job will be "preventive policing" - talking to youths about bullying, the dangers of drugs, and other schoolyard hazards.

Pokiak said the RCMP should be staffing communities without police presence before setting aside an officer for the benefit of Yellowknife students only.

Sahtu MLA Norman Yakeleya asked Justice Minister Charles Dent what sort of education programs the RCMP has for schools in small communities where there is no permanent police presence.

On Thursday, North Slave MLA Henry Zoe re-iterated the question, asking the minister if the RCMP will set up a regular education program for small community schools, "so students really understand the badness of drugs in general."

Dent said RCMP usually visit schools when checking in on a community, although they don't always employ the Drug Reduction Awareness Program that some of the larger centres in the territory see regularly.

"That isn't offered in all communities across the NWT because of the level of resources," said Dent.

"But what the RCMP do is try and put a human face on policing by making sure that they are in the schools."

Dent promised he would take the MLAs' concerns to the RCMP's chief superintendent when they meet later this month.