An effort to build communication between First Nations and police organizations on the North Shore is going digital.
The Integrated First Nations Unit, a partnership between the Squamish Nation, the Tsleil-Waututh, the North Vancouver RCMP and the West Vancouver Police Department, has set up a website that is to keep the public apprised of its work.
The website, located at www.ifnu.bc.rcmp.ca, contains information such as news releases, upcoming events and community profiles, as well as community tips on how to protect yourself against criminal offences and other risks.
It is an important tool for building communications and understanding between police and members of the Tsleil-Waututh and Squamish First Nations, said North Vancouver RCMP Constable Jeff Palmer,
"We work with the Nations to try and address problems from a longer term perspective," he said. "And also relationship building between police and the First Nations, which means building an understanding of the community, helping the community have a better understanding of police and their responsibilities."
The Integrated First Nations Unit began in 2008 after an agreement was signed to start it by B.C.'s Solicitor General, the West Vancouver Police Department, the North Vancouver RCMP, as well as the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations.
Now in its fourth year of operation, the unit is a combination of community policing and what the authorities call "enhanced policing."
"Simply put, we will assist with emergency calls if we're on duty, but in each jurisdiction, patrol or general duty members are still first responders," Palmer said. "Say for example there's a particular residence or person that is having excess police attendance or contact. We'd try and work with the First Nations to address longer-term issues. In some cases that can reduce demand for police service."
Some members serving with the unit have undergone special cultural training to work effectively with the First Nations. Palmer said such training is offered to police who would work in liaison positions, but overall the training is meant to build understanding of the First Nations' cultural traditions. The website and an associated Facebook page are a part of that.
"We play a role in cultural events, either festivals or events, you know, assist with policing but also assisting with standby peacekeeping at certain events," he said.
"Certainly there is an opportunity for officers to get to know the communities better. That helps in a number of ways so you know the families, you know the people that are involved, you get to know the issues that may be affecting them."