For the RCMP, making a community a safe place to live means understanding what it needs and providing it.
In Saskatchewan, Community Program Officers (CPOs) do just that by consulting with community groups, municipalities, and First Nations. Together, these civilian RCMP employees help determine what initiatives can be developed and implemented to tackle crime.
That could mean a range of crime-prevention approaches, such as improved street lighting, internet-safety presentations, anti-bullying initiatives, suicide-prevention campaigns, and educational material on a variety of topics for youth and families.
Laying a foundation
CPOs, like Maryah Walker, also help partners find funding to support local initiatives and assist with grant-writing proposals for crime-prevention projects. Walker has been a CPO for more than five years.
If you don't have a good relationship with people, you don't have trust. And if you don't have that, how can you build a foundation that can help the community?" asks Walker, who worked in La Loche, Sask., and is now based in Meadow Lake.
She's currently working on delivering a three-day conference on human trafficking.
Indigenous women have and continue to be victimized by trafficking," says Walker, who says she's heard reports of women being recruited in the very communities she serves.
One of the newest member of the CPO team is Adeel Zaman, who joined the RCMP in 2020 and works primarily in southern Saskatchewan.
Every community has different needs," says Zaman, who immigrated to Canada from Lahore, Pakistan in 2011. "
You have to assess them and build a rapport."
He consistently travels the region, making efforts to connect with communities, and rarely turning down an opportunity to meet with people.
If this is my chance to connect I have to take it, because I don't know when I'll get another," says Zaman.
Lance McNab relied on Zaman's help when he became a councillor of the George Gordon First Nation.
For me there was no orientation package," says McNab. "
I had ideas about how to help the community, but Adeel knew all about grant-writing and where to start."
McNab jokes that he took advantage of Adeel's eagerness to help.
He didn't tell us what to do. He just showed us the opportunities that were available to us and where to start," says McNab. "
If we hadn't established a relationship and kept communicating, I'd still be stuck."
Zaman also spent countless hours facilitating the creation of the Kamsack Hub Project, which provides services to the victims of interpersonal and domestic violence in an area of the province approximately 270 kilometeres northeast of Regina, near the Manitoba border.
Reflecting on his experience, Zaman says it can take time to build consensus, but its worth it.
I can best coordinate a community's efforts for identifying their issues by having partners sit together and come up with a viable and sustainable solution," he says. "
My efforts are always concentrated on strengthening the communities from within."