For the first time ever, police chiefs from across Alberta are collaborating on Treaty 7 land.
The Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police (AACP) is embracing reconciliation. They chose to gather at the Grey Eagle Resort because this year’s theme is focused on restoring community confidence.
Tsuut’ina Nation Police Chief Keith Blake said there are a lot of learning opportunities for other police forces in the province.
“The history of policing in Indigenous communities isn’t a great history and we have a lot of work to do to regain trust and confidence, and we have to be aware and understanding of all of our communities,” Blake said.
“First Nations policing is a challenge because we are underfunded and we are looking for equity.”
The Tsuut’ina police department has 30 members who pride themselves on being cultural sensitive during all of the interactions with their community members.
Other police chiefs acknowledge they need to do better.
Alberta RCMP Chief Const. Darcy Fleury is himself Indigenous, and said it’s about connecting to the people.
“Understand and learn and be a part of the community, go with elders and be a part of it and understand what they’re going through and understand cultures and where they come from and what they’re looking for going forward,” Fleury said.
The Calgary Police Service is working to be more inclusive.
In March 2022, an eagle feather was gifted by a Piikani Nation elder. It’s already been used in new recruit ceremonies.
Police Chief Mark Neufeld said it’s important to transform their traditions to be more inclusive of the current membership.
“Before it was either you oath or affirm or take the Bible, and now we have become much more inclusive with Indigenous members and recruits,” he said.
“When they were to swear before, they told us they didn’t feel connected because they didn’t fit those boxes and that was an oversight.”
This year’s AACP conference will also focus on recruiting, in hopes of finding solutions to engage the Indigenous community members to join the force.
“Three of our officers are from Tsuut’ina and 65 per cent self-identify as Indigenous and 85 per cent of support staff identify as Indigenous,” Blake said.
“The community wants to see a reflection of their community in police. It’s difficult to police the community you grew up in, but it’s important to have inclusion of community members who have a true understanding of traditions and history.”