It’s been more than a year in the making, but now a new documentary series on the province’s only First Nations police force is about to be unveiled.
Steve Sxwithul’txw, a former police officer turned producer, spent 42 days shooting the 13-episode APTN documentary Tribal Police Files in Lilloeet, B.C., giving the public a glimpse into the world of the Stal’atl’imx Tribal Police Service.
But the show isn’t just another version of Cops.
According to Sxwithul’txw, tribal police differ from city police or the RCMP in that they are much more involved in the areas they serve. People respond to each other on a first name basis, are often related, and the police are truly part of the community, events and cultural practices that occur.
“This truly is the epitome of community policing…It’s really understanding what the culture is all about and what the people are all about and the impact the past has had on our people across the country. That kind of understanding goes a long ways,” said Sxwithul’txw, noting the show maintains a positive tone and features a balance of police interacting with community members, events and traditional cultural practices.
“This is something that’s a labour of love. It’s something I always wanted to do — to be able to show what police have to endure within their own community that they police, which can be very challenging. To show the point of view of the officers on a daily basis is a real gift…They are real people and that’s what I was hoping to highlight.”
The Stal’atl’imx Tribal Police Service covers 10 of the 11 St’at’imc communities with two detachments in Lillooet and Mount Currie. Five officers are followed in the show as they respond to a variety of calls, including those on Highway 40 — an area known for its dangerous roads.
For Sxwithul’txw, filming the show was a step into the past. The Cook Street Village resident served as an officer with the Tseulton Police Service for eight years before he left to pursue a career in journalism. Following the officers from call to call in Lillooet made him wonder how he ever did the job.
“I am a different person from that time. When you’re an officer you wear this other outer layer of skin that nobody can really recognize because that’s the person you have to be,” said Sxwithul’txw, adding it took about two years to get back to being Steve.
“They have this mask in front of them and they aren’t able to show who they are because you’re a police officer 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I just got sick of it and I thank god I don’t do it anymore.”
The Tribal Police Files airs March 3 on APTN.