Chief Tricia Sutherland, OAFN Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

A delicious ham and turkey supper with all the fixings started off the town hall gathering held at the One Arrow Community Centre on Thursday, February 23rd. Invitations were sent to local urban and rural communities to join together, discuss common issues faced by all, become familiar with the leadership in each community, and form good relationships with neighbours. 

The first town hall event was held six years ago in 2017, but with the intrusion of the pandemic, Thursday’s event was only the third such gathering. All the municipal leaders present expressed gratitude to Chief Sutherland and the One Arrow community for again reaching out to draw our region together because as Sutherland said communities cannot thrive in isolation. Working together can and will make this place, our space, a better place for our kids and grandkids and their kids yet to come. Chief Sutherland referenced a question she had been asked as to why she wanted to get into politics. Her response then and still remains, that she wasn’t a politician, she was a leader, doing what was best for her community and leading the way for the next generation. This response points to something we should all aspire to.

Sgt. Adam Von Niessen, Detachment Commander of the Wakaw RCMP, spoke to the need for community members to be willing to take a stand for their community. In simplest terms, police are ‘story-gatherers’ who then become ‘story-tellers’ when they present the story to a judge. The ‘story’ however, cannot be built on here-say.  The police cannot present a story to the courts based on information that is heard from a third party, so information that comes to them as “I heard this happened” does not allow them to act. The Duty to Report falls on the person who saw the crime or who knows the details of what happened and saw the evidence of it. To act and pursue information, to become the ‘story-gatherers’, police need someone to say, “I saw ‘so-and-so’ do this (?). It happened on ‘such-and-such’ day and if needed I will say that in front of a judge.” That is the evidence police need to gather further evidence if needed, and to further the process toward laying charges, but the community members need to trust their police. Sgt. Von Niessen stated that he can say unequivocally that every complaint that is made to the RCMP is seen by a member and if it is something that can and should be followed up it will be. Even something as minor somebody knocking over a gnome in somebody’s back yard, if it is reported, the report will be read.

Sgt. Von Niessen took over the command of the Wakaw Detachment last summer and said that the crime statistics of this area show that we have relatively safe communities, however, he cautioned, those statistics don’t and can’t show what isn’t reported. It is common to hear people complain that there is no point in reporting things to the local police because nothing happens, but that is only true if there is nothing for the police to act upon. Again, they can only act if they witness something or if, for instance, they get a call for suspected domestic violence and they arrive on scene and see the evidence for themselves. He’s said many times, “Nobody ever breaks the law in front of a police officer” and there is no denying that. As members of the community, people need to be willing to be the eyes and ears of the community. 

One thing Sgt. Von Niessen tried to make clear is that he is passionate about community policing. Community policing involves three key components: developing community partnerships, engaging in problem solving, and implementing community policing organizational practices. The goal and emphasis of every practice including recruitment, hiring, section, training, and evaluations, is the development of a positive relationship between police and the community that builds an environment of trust. As a vital component of development, Sgt. Von Niessen has designated an officer to be a liaison with each school in the detachment coverage area, which is now possible with the detachment at nearly full staffing. Full staffing will be reached soon with the arrival of the fifth active member who will fulfill the bilingual requirement of the detachment and be the liaison with the Bellevue school.

Throughout the evening questions were encouraged by both Chief Sutherland and Sgt. Von Niessen, from those gathered. Others present to answer questions were Rosthern RCMP Detachment Cpl. Kyle Lakinger, Community Justice Worker/Manager Crystal Sutherland, and STC Justice Coordinator Mike Henricks. While there weren’t a host of questions, there were some that related to the efficacy of providing anonymous tips and how to report something. The most efficient way to report non- emergency complaints, Sgt. Von Niessen shared, is through calling 310-RCMP (310-7267). This toll-free number will put the caller in direct contact with RCMP dispatch in Regina who will get the information to the correct detachment and officer on duty. With the technology that is currently available, a police vehicle is like a mobile detachment. Officers no longer have to sit in the office to complete reports or respond to calls for service. They can be, and are, out and about in the community.

As the evening wrapped up some attendees began to come up with ideas of how the communities could start to work together and develop partnerships and relationships. Through working and learning together all sectors of the communities can get to know each other on both a personal and professional level. It is through interaction and co-operation that neighbouring communities develop into neighbours.

By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Mar 04, 2023

This item reprinted with permission from   Wakaw Recorder   Wakaw, Saskatchewan
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