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Fewer arrests means more money: KRPF

Drug-fighting unit “may be discontinued”

By JANE GEORGE

KUUJJUAQ – The Kativik Regional Police Force plans to make fewer arrests as a cost-cutting measure.

”The more you arrest people, the more you have to send people south,” Luc Harvey, the KRPF’s interim chief, said during the Kativik Regional Government’s council meeting last week.

Fewer arrests in Nunavik will reduce travel and escorting costs, Harvey said.

The move is part of the troubled police force’s recovery plan, which includes eliminating an accumulated deficit of about $3 million.

Fewer arrests will also lessen the need for additional guards for offenders in temporary custody, Harvey said. Low-paid guard duty has been an unpopular job in Nunavik, with overburdened police, Canadian Rangers or municipal officers often obliged to fill in.

If the KRPF pays fewer guards, those on duty can expect better pay, Harvey suggested. The KRPF will also consider providing guards with a television to view during night watch, he said.

Fewer drug-related arrests in the region can be expected if the KRPF decides to end its participation in Quebec’s Aboriginal Combined Enforcement Unit.

The KRPF’s involvement in this drug-fighting unit “may be discontinued,” deputy police chief Jobie Epoo told the council.

Finding alternatives to jail time in the South and beefing up the region’s bylaw enforcement are also part of the strategy to keep crime at 2006 levels, shrink arrests and cut costs.

The KRPF told councilors about this plan, after more than two months of turmoil within the force. These included the KRG’s firing of the former police chief, revelations that most KRPF members hadn’t been legally sworn in, and a takeover by the Sûreté du Québec provincial police force.

A member of the KRG executive dismissed concern over the events, which led to the KRPF police chief’s firing and the seven-week SQ occupation, as a “media scandal.”

At last week’s meeting, Harvey, the KRG’s former assistant executive director, offered no specific information on who was to blame for the KRPF’s problems.

“The whole system was at fault,” he said.

As for good news, councillors learned that KRG won’t be left with the multi-million dollar tab for the SQ’s stay, and $1.5 million from $15 million recently received for Nunavik’s crime prevention program will be used to bring down the KRPF’s accumulated deficit.

“We’re looking ahead,” Harvey said. “We’re back to normal. We have a lot to do.”

However, the KRPF faces an immediate manpower crisis, with many longtime officers leaving the force in protest over the firing of former chief Brian Jones (now the deputy police chief in the northern Quebec Cree community of Whapmagoostui) and their working conditions.

To find more officers, the KRPF plans to visit former members of the police force, who successfully underwent training, and convince them to return. The KRPF also wants to recruit eight new Inuit police officers.

Only six regular constables on the 54-member force are Inuit, although, as a native police force, the KRPF is supposed to be 100 per cent Inuit.

As part of its effort to lure Nunavimmiut back to the force, the KRPF also plans to provide improved housing for police.

Through an agreement under negotiation with the Quebec Housing Corporation, the KRG wants to use money from the region’s affordable housing program to build or renovate units for the KRPF in all Nunavik communities by 2008.

The first units are being built this year in Aupaluk, Ivujivik, and Inukjuak.

The affordable housing program is intended to subsidize private housing construction for local residents and is not supposed to pay for staff housing. However, among the arguments for the KRPF to tap into this money is that Inuit who want to be police need housing from the KRPF, which lacks housing in nearly every community.

The lack of KRPF staff housing is seen as a major deterrent to Inuit joining the force.

That’s because most prospective cops from Nunavik live in social housing. They usually don’t want to work as cops in their home communities, yet if they leave to work in another community, they lose their housing.

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