William Tewnion has spent his entire police career working with First Nations. Now he’s doing it here.
A local selection committee unanimously endorsed the RMCP sergeant as detachment commander, once he spends a bit of time here as an inspector.
“I oversee people who work on the street,” he said. “And the most efficient way of providing a police service is to engage the community. To involve the community in setting policing priorities. And that’s what I’ve done ever since I started detachment policing.”
Tewnion is familiar with the recommendations of the territory wide policing review, which stemmed from the in-custody death of Raymond Silverfox and sexual assault charges involving two officers in Watson Lake. The two men were acquitted of the crime, but still face an adjudication board hearing.
That review represents a “tremendous stride” forward in community relations, said Tewnion.
But he wants to go even further.
He’s asking for an invite to sit in on chief and council meetings with both the Kwanlin Dun First Nation and the Ta’an Kwach’an Council.
“In all of the communities I’ve worked, the number one issue is communication,” said Tewnion. “We need to open up those lines of communication.
“I always found it very beneficial to attend chief and council meetings so that we can say, ‘Hey, here’s the face of the police. This is what we do. What can you tell us that your concerns are from a crime perspective? What can we do to assist your community to be safer and healthier? What can we do as your police service to help you achieve those goals?’
“We can have a police car drive through there and be visible and wave, or we can actually get more engaged. They (aboriginal leaders) live in the communities. We don’t necessarily live in the communities.”
“I’m pretty sure the board here wouldn’t mind meeting the individual,” said Rick Martin, deputy chief of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council. “If he wanted to come in and introduce himself, I’m pretty sure the board would accept it.”
It is something Martin has never heard of happening before. It is pretty interesting, said Martin.
Tewnion would also like to sit down with the Mayor and Council of the City of Whitehorse as well, he said, adding that he, his wife and their dog are very eager to move up to the northern town.
But they haven’t found a place to live, yet.
“Do you know anybody who wants to sell a house,” Tewnion asked, laughing.
He’ll start as soon as he can find a place to live, said Sgt. Don Rogers, Whitehorse RCMP spokesman.
Tewnion joined the RCMP in his hometown of Kamloops, BC, more than 20 years ago. Since then, he has worked in Manitoba until he started working in Estevan, Saskatchewan, eight months ago.
The committee responsible for recommending Tewnion included RCMP Supt. Paul McConnell, Jeanie Dendys, the Kwanlin Dun’s justice director, Deborah Dupont of the Ta’an Kwach’an Council and representatives of Whitehorse.
Tewnion’s new position became available after Mark Wharton, Whitehorse’s Detachment Commander, switched to a district policing position.
The Kwanlin Dun First Nation could not be reached before press time.
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at email@example.com