Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik September 12, 2012 - 8:32 am

Nunavik police chief fends off complaints at Kuujjuaq meeting

Regional councillors deplore cops' behaviour in their communities

Kativik Regional Police Force chief Aileen Mackinnon responds to criticism about members of the police force Sept. 12 during a discussion at the Kativik Regional Government council meeting in Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)
Kativik Regional Police Force chief Aileen Mackinnon responds to criticism about members of the police force Sept. 12 during a discussion at the Kativik Regional Government council meeting in Kuujjuaq. (PHOTO BY JANE GEORGE)

KUUJJUAQ — Since the beginning of 2012, members of the Kativik Regional Police have responded to more than 12,000 calls, of which roughly 7,000 concerned criminal incidents.

In May and July, Nunavik police netted an estimated half million dollars worth of drugs and illegally ordered alcohol.

But regional councillors at the Kativik Regional Government council meeting in Kuujjuaq had more complaints than praise for how the KRPF does its jobs.

After a Sept. 11 report to the council by the force’s chief of police, Aileen MacKinnon, regional councillors complained that police don’t respond to calls quickly enough, show a lack respect for people in the communities, sometimes use excessive force, and don’t feed prisoners or let country food into the jail cells.

One councillor related how police have taken alcohol away from people in her community and poured it out on the ground, without providing any compensation for the lost alcohol.

Another told how police left their keys in the police vehicle which was then stolen.

Some councillors said police don’t stay long enough in their communities, while others said that, when officers stay too long, they get lazy and don’t respond to calls or investigate complaints.

MacKinnon acknowledged that two members of the force have been suspended for actions that were “not acceptable.”

People who feel like they’ve been treated unfairly by a police officer can call her or fill out a report that is forwarded to Quebec’s ethics commissioner, who then investigates the matter.

Information on how to file a report is posted in each village’s police station or its employment and training office.

This past year the KRPF dealt with several incidents involving the force:

• last September in Tasiujaq, where a young woman prisoner was alleged to have been sexually assaulted by a male prisoner in the back of a patrol vehicle;

• a murder-suicide in March involving a former KRPF officer and another man; and,

• the death of a 39-year-old man who was in custody at the Puvirnituq police station in July, which appeared to be the result of a completed suicide attempt.

MacKinnon promised to look into the complaints that police sometimes don’t respond to calls immediately.

But she also explained why members of the KRPF — who are not supported by central dispatch call system after working hours like the RCMP in Nunavut — can’t always respond quickly to calls. A call in the middle of the night may mean police have to get dressed, she said.

Often police are also sharing guard duty in cells. That’s a job which, after years of problems recruiting guards and more than one instance when detainees committed suicide in police cells, the KRPF wants to hand over to a private security company.

While it’s unlikely country food brought in from family members can be allowed into the cells, Mackinnon said, cameras in the cells are something the KRPF also wants to see.

As for the length of stays by police in communities, Mackinnon said people in Nunavik used to say they wanted officers to stay longer, but if that’s not working, the KRPF will revisit the situation.

If police sometimes empty out a mickey or another bottle of alcohol, that’s likely because it was being consumed in public — which is illegal — or was illegally ordered in, MacKinnon said.

KRG chairman Maggie Emudluk said the KRG, which oversees policing in Nunavik, doesn’t want to give up on providing policing services to the region.

The KRPF, created as an aboriginal police force in 1995, was to be run regionally with Inuit officers.

While there are only three Inuit police officers in the 66-member force, Emudluk said recruiting more Inuit remains the goal.

She told regional councillors and Nunavimmiut listening to the live discussion on the Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. radio network that the KRPF plans to submit a tougher code of conduct to the KRG.

The KRPF is also looking for more money when its two-year funding agreement with Quebec and Ottawa ends next March.

The force now receives roughly $15 million a year to provide policing to communities in Nunavik.

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