By Andrea Smith
A popular reality TV show about Indigenous policing is about to begin its second season of filming. The new location for the show will be the small Rama First Nation in Ontario.
The show, Tribal Police Files, aired it’s first season on APTN last year, highlighting the Stl'Atl'Imx Tribal Police in Lillooet, B.C. The show’s producer and host, Steve Sxwithul’txw, hopes the new location will be even more action packed than the first.
“We’re definitely following the same format as last season… We’re following the police officers in an observational capacity as their day unfolds. That includes the proactive work in their community, as well as talking to the officers getting to know them, doing some re-enactment scenes with them and highlighting their community,” said Sxwithul’txw, who, along with being the host and producer, has moved into the director’s chair for this season.
“And, of course, working with youth and highlighting the positives of having your own First Nations police in your community,” he added.
The basic premise of the show is that the tribal police have a unique approach to policing, when compared to city police or RCMP. The fact that the communities they work in are small helps them tailor their approach to the needs of the people.
And further, the fact that they are often friends and relations of those they’re policing adds to the dynamic, said Sxwithul’txw.
Tribal Police Files shows the audience how tough the job can be, while showing the dedication of the officers as they try to remain personally connected to everyone while carrying out their duties.
“For us it was always about having a balanced show where we portray everybody equally and give everyone a chance to have their say… It’s not just all negative story lines, like the 90’s cop show you saw on Fox (TV). That’s what makes this relevant and easy to watch,” said Sxwithul’txw.
“One of things about policing is that you go to work every day and just don’t know what you’re going to encounter. Anything is possible,” he said.
Sxwithul’txw has the experience in this field to say this. He was an officer for a few years. One of his Tribal Police jobs was dissolved, along with the entire police force of that First Nation, something he attributes to the Canada-wide issue of underfunding such operations.
Sxwithul’txw still thinks of himself as a police officer, though, and because of this, feels he can mitigate danger that will arise for his film crew during live-scenes. He doesn’t know exactly what to expect in Rama, but he’s been told it’s going to be more exciting than Lillooet. And when asked if anything is off-limits for airing—including a possible death on camera—he said, no, there’s always the potential to work with it with sensitivity.
“There’s a way of showing it without graphically showing it… There’s a way to bring about an end to that story line… If it’s deep and it’s rich. But I’m going to make sure that people are protected. You gotta’ use common sense,” he said.
John Domm is in his ninth year as Chief of Rama Police Service. He reached out to Sxwithul’txw and his team to convince them to bring the show to Rama. Domm isn’t sure if he will be on camera himself, but he is sure many of his officers will show Tribal Police Files’ audiences exactly what makes Rama so special.
“There will be coverage of actual duties of the police officer… responding to calls for service. There’s also the potential for some re-enactment work, and we hope to cover a number of cultural community events… There’s always things going on in the community. We arranged to encompass the powwow in August, and we have language lessons, and robust schooling,” said Domm.
He was also pleased to find out that another component of the show will be translating it to Ojibway, the Indigenous language of the Rama First Nation.
And while Domm anticipates some complications to arise during filming, it’s reassuring for him to know that his officers have the authority to shut the cameras off when they feel the need. And he’s also reassured by the fact that Sxwithul’txw was once a cop, himself, so should be able to make the show great, without exploiting anyone—officer or community member.
“You can mobilize very quickly and come together. Often you know who to go to when things need to get done, and in many respects, I think it does give us an upper hand,” said Domm, expanding on what it’s like working in his tight-knit community.
“That’s what I want to exemplify and showcase… That it’s not just the rough and tumble, you break a law, this is the outcome, and you move along,” he added.
The show won’t air until 2019, but you can follow them, and watch updates and behind-the-scenes action, at: http://www.tribalpolicefiles.com/