'We do not know what we will do for now,' police chief admits

Cash-strapped KRPF faces funding crisis


KUUJJUAQ – With its current five-year funding agreement set to expire March 31, the Kativik Regional Police Force needs more money, as well as more manpower, stable management and safer working conditions.

But there's no sign that a new long-term agreement for the KRPF between Quebec, Canada and the Kativik Regional Government, which oversees the police force, will be ready in time.

A one-year extension of the agreement is the most likely outcome, but this will not offer the KRPF much more money and it's not certain that it could be negotiated for April 1.

This means the KRG might have to pay for the KRPF's expenses out of its general budget while waiting for a new deal to be signed.

Under the current agreement, Quebec and Canada pay about $10 million a year for the KRPF, through a 40-60 split.

Quebec has paid the cost of supplying extra assistance from the provincial police and travel expenses. This additional $2.5 million is expected to be included in any new long-term agreement.

But will that be enough for the KRPF? Jobie Epoo, the KRPF's chief of police, says the KRPF "cannot go forward" without more money.

The conclusion of a new collective agreement with the local police union has also stalled because the KRPF doesn't know how much more money – if any – there will be.

"We do not know what we will do for now," he told the meeting of the KRG council in Kuujjuaq on Feb. 21.

At the KRG council meeting, Epoo said the KRPF hadn't been able to achieve all its goals because it doesn't have enough money to execute the recovery plan announced last year.

This recovery plan was based on less crime, lower costs, more Inuit police, improved staff housing and more stable finances.

According to statistics tabled at the KRG meeting, the number of files opened by police did decrease from 8,269 in 2007 to 7,368.

However, assaults rose to 1,893 in 2007 from 1,598 in 2006. More than 1,100 of assaults reported in 2007 occurred in the Hudson Bay coast communities.

In 2008, police have also been the victims of assaults.

Earlier this month, a police constable in Kangirsuk was medevaced to Montreal when he suffered a concussion after being kicked in the head.

On Feb. 8, police in Kangirsuk received a call about an accident. The two constables saw a man at the scene, asked him if he needed medical attention, but when he said he didn't, they then arrested him for impaired driving.

Several other men, the majority of them under 18, then arrived and police say they tried to stop them from carrying out the arrest.

While a constable held a man on the ground, he was kicked in the head by another man and injured.

In Kuujjuaq that same weekend, an intoxicated man also assaulted a KRPF officer.

In relation to this incident on Feb. 9, Bobby Gordon, 24, faces a number of charges, including dangerous driving, leaving the scene of an accident, assault, assault on a KRPF officer, resisting arrest, transportation and careless use and storage of a firearm, possession of marijuana and assault with a weapon.

Some councillors at the recent KRG council meeting complained that constables, now trained in the use of batons and pepper spray, are too aggressive and inexperienced, which causes violence to escalate.

However, police say some people take advantage of newly-arrived police who don't know everyone in the community. Police also defend the use of pepper spray and batons in situations where they are trying to make an arrest and their safety is threatened.

An email message obtained by Nunatsiaq News, shows the KRPF is actively looking for older, more experienced police officers.

The recent pitch sent by email to retired SQ members asks them to work in Nunavik for periods ranging from six weeks to 12 months.

The 54-member force now has only 30 full-time members, with the rest on short-term contracts. Only 14 are Inuit.

To deal with the lack of trained local police, this month the KRPF sent eight members and two recruits to Quebec's police academy. Another 10 are to go there later this spring.

But finding money and manpower isn't the only challenge that faces the KRPF.

KRPF is also experiencing management problems. These include the temporary departure of the deputy director of operations, Danny Stevens, until a June 2006 charge for impaired driving is heard in court.

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