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Six Recruits Enlist: Condemning RCMP Plan, Federation Gets Review

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      FEBRUARY 1977      v07 n02 p06  
REGINA - In the shadow of a threatened withdrawal of support from the RCMP special constables program by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indians, six new recruits have now enlisted in the program.

The SIX are among 16 Indians selected throughout Canada to participate in the third year of the program which trains Indians to assume the full roles and responsIbilities of RCMP constables.

However, FSI dissatisfaction has prompted the establishment of a joint committee of the FSI, the RCMP and the provincial attorney-general's department to evaluate, the program.

Late last year, FSI chief David Ahenakew threatened to withdraw FSI support, charging the program was "a mess" and was not working.

According to FSI executive director Cliff Starr, the federation's dissatisfaction was rooted in the program's failure to provide the kind of service envisaged when first established in late 1974.

Under the program, Indian special constables were expected to spend one-third of their time engaged in crime prevention on the reserves within their detachments. But this service was only rarely provided and the Indian constables spent the major portion of their time responding to 'crisis' situations, Starr said.

He said the RCMP viewed the role of the constables as being "first and foremost enforcers of the law" and minimized their responsibility to improve relations between the police force and Indian communities.

As envisaged, the constables were to spend one-third of their time in regular RCMP duties, another third in administrative work and one-third in on-reserve crime prevention, Starr said.

Bill Logan, the solicitor in the attorney-general's department responsible for policing, agreed the division of responsibilities had been formulated as Starr described them.

But Logan said the rigors of police service make it difficult to assign a strict percentage of police time to specific duties. Nevertheless crime prevention "is a basic principle of policing generally."

"Maybe everyone has different views of what was expected.," he said. "But my personal view is it (the program) has been working very well and has been very worthwhile."

Logan is a member of the committee which will be evaluating the program. The committee is expected to make a report in late March of early April.

The program is financed under essentially the same formula used to calculate the costs of regular RCMP service in the province. In the 1975-76 fiscal year Saskatchewan paid 52 per cent and the federal government 48 per cent of the total costs of RCMP services.

However, the department of Indian affairs picks up eight per cent of the costs of the special constables' program, thus reducing the province's share to 44 per cent.

In 1975 the total cost of the program in Saskatchewan was $67,415, rising to $66,860 in the first nine months of 1976.

The 1977 recruit from Saskatchewan are Howard Cameron, Hubert Gardipy and Elmer Seeseequasis, all of Beardys - Okemasis; Ed Henderson of Montreal Lake; Cecile Merasty of Peter Ballantyne, and Lionel Poitras of Muscowpetung.

Of the seven and eight constables who graduated from each of the first two years of the program, five from each class remain on the force.

Starr suggested the program could be improved by allowing FSI representatives to participate in the process of selecting the recruits and stationing the graduates.

He said the constables would work better in detachments which include their own reserves. A constable may not be suited to work on particular reserves because of family animosities or other factors, he said.

He also charged some, RCMP officers have not accepted the special constables as equal members of the force. He said many have a deep seated prejudice toward Indians which is not eradicated by a uniform.