Thirty years ago, when she first joined the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police, Deborah Doss-Cody never imagined she would be the police service’s Chief Officer decades later.
“In all honesty, if you’d told me I was going to be a police officer when I was in high school, I never would have believed it,” she told the News last week.
Last Wednesday, Dec. 5, Chief Officer Doss-Cody was honoured for her 30 years of service at a celebration and luncheon at the P'egp'ig'lha Administration Office at T’it’q’et.
Sergeant Mike Leo, who has also been with the Tribal Police for 30 years, was also scheduled to be honoured at the same celebration but was called out of town at the last minute. He is the officer in charge of the Mt. Currie detachment.
Both haven been with the Tribal Police since it began.
Chief Officer Doss-Cody was presented with a commendation plaque honouring her for her “unwavering dedication to duty and service for the people of the St’at’imc Nation.”
Although she never envisioned joining a police service, Doss-Cody said the timing was right when the Peacekeepers – the forerunners of the Tribal Police – were established.
“It was an opportunity that came up when the Peacekeeper training came on board,” she recalled. ‘From there, it just developed and I just carried on from there, milestone after milestone and challenge after challenge.”
She says she has a lot of memories, but says the best memory was graduating as a constable.
“Looking back, because I was so young I didn’t really appreciate how much the people were celebrating the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police. But looking back on that now, and the impacts that it had on the community and some of the elders – some of them were crying because they were proud and dancing to celebrate. That was huge.”
The Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police was the first tribal police service established in B.C.
The service currently has eight officers working in the Lillooet and Mt. Currie detachments.
Chief Officer Doss-Cody said the St’at’imc people ‘have a lot to be proud of based on the fact we were trail blazers in starting a First Nations police service. People said, ‘We don’t want these problems in our communities anymore and a lot has changed in the last 30 years – the parties that used to happen at Seton Lake, the accidents. Granted, we’re not going to get everything at the time that it’s occurring, but we’ve built upon a good solid foundation and I think our future is going to be better and better.”
Chief Officer Doss-Cody said she “would first and foremost” like to thank her family for all of their support over the years.
“My sister Vera is actually the one who pushed me into getting into tribal police. She got me started. Thanks to the communities for always standing by us. And the police board because things are ever-evolving and changing. Pauline Michell is actually an original board member from the inception of the tribal police and she’s still on it. This is a celebration for her as well. And of course, my husband and my kids for all the sacrifices they’ve made over the years.”
In her comments, Police Board Chair Rebecca Barley told the audience 30 years is “quite an accomplishment,” noting that the focus of the tribal police has always been on serving the various St’at’imc communities. She also acknowledged the long service of Pauline Michell on the Police Board.
During last week’s celebration, Chief Mike Leach recounted the early history of the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police. He explained how the T’it’q’et community approached him as chief and said its residents wanted security to deal with speeding violations and drug and alcohol offences.
“I bought a little beige Bronco, stuck a few images on there and we went on patrol,” said Chief Leach. “We sent two people to the Justice Institute to learn about security.”
That security detail evolved into the Peacekeepers which evolved into the Tribal Police.
He said all 11 St’at’imc communities eventually supported and welcomed the Peacekeepers, although Xwisten later withdrew from the organization and retained the RCMP as its police service.
Chief Leach recounted the RCMP’s initial opposition to the concept of an Indigenous police service, the debate over the right of St’at’imc peace officers to carry 9mm. Glock pistols and how the service became a model of community policing for other tribal police services
Chief Leach also emphasized that the Tribal Police are a police service, not a police force.
“That’s important to understand. It’s like all the other programs and services for the communities. This is a little more complex and demanding but it is a service.”
The spotlight will also shine on the Tribal Police during the May 2019 celebration of the Declaration of the Lillooet Tribe, which will be held at Sekw’el’was (Cayoose Creek). Previous chiefs, constables and staff will be recognized at the event.