For Mission RCMP officer Alex Poirier, policing was the only real path.
“Growing up, that was the only career I had in mind,” Poirier said. “My only option was the route I wanted to go.”
Poirier is a second generation police officer whose father worked for the RCMP as well. He works as the Indigenous liaison officer, community enforcement officer and supervisor for the community support team with the Mission RCMP.
“It’s a little bit different than just dealing with priority offenders,” Poirier said. “I try to go into the community and treat everyone with respect.”
Poirier has served with the RCMP for 13 years and spent the first 10 years in Burnaby. His duties as community enforcement officer include working with community partners such as the Downtown Business Association, corrections, and the Mission Leisure Centre. As supervisor for the community support team, he oversees Indigenous policing, schools, the mental health unit and traffic services.
“Instead of the frontline services guys who are constantly going from call to call, I have the opportunity to sit back and try to work with people,” he said.
As the Indigenous liaison officer, he polices Sumas First Nation and Leq’á:mel First Nation.
“It’s good to go into a community with an open mind and a ‘no problem too small’ approach,” he said. “Giving people just a little bit of your time and listening makes a huge difference.”
He says his role can go beyond taking calls and tries to engage community partners to help with big picture problems.
“There are always struggles in trying to build a relationship with the Indigenous communities,” he said. “It’s about showing that support to Indigenous partners, that I’m truly there to help and want to work with them to improve whatever situations that they’re experiencing.”
He says stereotypes and beliefs that exist towards police is a barrier in his role.
“There’s always the race belief. There’s a strong belief that the RCMP doesn’t care,” he said. “There’s a belief that police aren’t invested in [Indigenous] interests, or whatever. Racism. Those are probably the big [stereotypes].”
When COVID hit in March of 2020, Mission RCMP felt the same stresses as other organizations due to public health restrictions.
“It was definitely a strange time for us,” he said. “But I don’t really think there was too much of a shift in terms of what our job was.”
However, Poirier says the pandemic had systemic impacts on the justice system with detachment closures, bail hearings, housing, prisons, and pre-trial centres.
“The courts released people a lot more often than normal because of COVID restrictions,” Poirier said. “A huge difficulty for us was that the courthouses closed, so there’s a huge change in our process of dealing with people and transferring prisoners and holding people in custody.”
Early in the pandemic, the Mission RCMP’s front counter was closed and people couldn’t come to the detachment for normal business.
“I’m definitely glad that the COVID stuff has dialed back a bit,” Poirier said. “It definitely makes it easier when not everyone’s messed up and worried about getting sick. So it’s definitely a little bit of weight off our shoulders.”
Going forward, Poirier hopes to continue strengthening the police’s relationship with Indigenous communities.
“I’m already seeing some of that hard work come to fruition where the community members are actually calling me directly with issues instead of not calling the police at all.
The Shine Bright Mission event is slated for March 3 and will feature 16 custom-designed light displays to represent a community organization, landmark, or local connection.
It also includes live music and activities for the whole family.