A community that is progressive, healthy, and secure. The introduction of the territory’s first Community Safety Officer Pilot Program might bring this goal for the hamlet of Fort Liard, N.W.T., one step closer to realization. Three community safety officers will ultimately react to non-criminal safety issues in the hamlet as part of the trial program. Unlike the RCMP, community safety officers will not carry firearms and will get specialized training.
They will not have the ability to police laws, but will be “strong community champions for Fort Liard because they know the hamlet, the people, and the culture best,” said Minister of Justice R.J. Simpson in a statement. Fort Liard, population 500, was chosen from among several N.W.T. towns based on community need and capacity to implement the program successfully.
The N.W.T. government is funding the three-year initiative ($303,000 each year), as well as developing the program’s fundamental framework. It is likely to be released this year or next. Dean Riou, the territory government’s temporary director of community justice and policing, envisions safety officers as community helpers, leaders, and issue solvers.
According to Riou, more than 40% of calls to police in the Northwest Territories are for what he refers to as social disorder calls — when someone is “essentially being a nuisance or requires help due to their intoxication, but hasn’t committed a crime.”
Statistics Canada discovered last year that mischief and disturbing the peace account for a substantial portion of the high crime rates that affect Canada’s tiny, rural, majority-Indigenous communities. In such instances, community safety officers can assist in dealing with the problem.