Tag Archives: Tribal Police Files

Third and final season of Tribal Police Files in production

From a media release:

Steve Sxwithul’txw of OCM3 Productions is pleased to announce the start of production of Season 3 of Tribal Police Files, a documentary TV series on APTN, July 25 – August 15, 2020. Safety protocols for motion picture and television production will be in place to ensure a safe return to production. All reasonable precautions will be followed to protect the community, cast and crew.

This new season will be filmed in the Tsuut’ina Nation, located outside of Calgary, Alberta.  This season’s thirteen half-hour episodes will take us into the heart-stopping and challenging world of tribal police officers on the frontlines of the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service.

Steve Sxwithul’txw is a First Nations director, producer and executive producer. As a former police officer from B.C., Sxwithul’txw also has a unique perspective and unprecedented access to the community of the Tsuut’ina Nation.

Tribal Police Files follows the tribal police officers as they put their lives on the line to keep their communities safe, healthy and proud. The series will also be translated into Tsuut’ina, the language of the Tsuut’ina Nation.

Unlike traditional cop shows, Tribal Police Files will uniquely balance police interaction with community members, showcase the police officers’ personal lives, and highlight the beauty of Indigenous culture and traditional lands. Viewers will ride along with the officers as they respond to calls, not knowing the challenges that lie ahead. Tribal Police Files recognizes the police officers’ incredible work and instills pride, healing and strength in its communities.

OCM 3 Productions
Tribal Police Files is produced and directed by Steve Sxwithul’txw. His previous series, Warrior Games, won four Leo Awards for, Best Information/Reality Series, Best Host, Best Screenwriting and Best Cinematography.

Tribal Police Files is produced with the support of the Canada Media Fund, APTN and the National Bank of Canada.


APTN’s Tribal Police Files: Steve Sxwithul’txw previews Season 2

New season, new location. After its first season focused on the  Stl’atl’imx Nation in the Lillooet region of British Columbia, director and producer Steve Sxwithul’txw brought Tribal Police Files to Ontario, spotlighting the Rama Police Service.

The 13-episode second season—broadcast Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN—once again captures the lives of not just the Indigenous police officers on and off the job, but those living in the community as well. In Saturday’s first episode, we hit the road for a routine traffic stop, learn the history of the area—including how the casino necessitated the police force’s growth—and recall how a devastating accident tore the area apart.

We spoke to Steve Sxwithul’txw ahead of Saturday’s return.

Why did you decide to come east and to specifically focus on the Rama police force in Season 2?
Steve Sxwithul’txw: The decision was pretty easy when deciding which community we would highlight. We put a vast call out to First Nations communities that have their own police service, and Rama responded quite quickly. I did my research and realized immediately that this was one of those services that has pretty much everything and it was very high functioning and had a lot of the amenities that some police services that I know, don’t. It would give a really unique perspective, especially with the large casino in place, and how that could change the dynamics of the community over a period of time. So there was some history there to tell, and watching their growth and knowing that they have this amazing first responder crew. I had every level that deals with their people and takes care of them. I thought that was a no-brainer in my opinion, for Season 2.

Doing a little bit of digging into the First Nations policing program in the first place, I had no clue that that even existed. It was a real learning experience for me.
SS: Oh, that’s good. Yeah, it’s been in place since 1995, and the Liberals came in in early 2015, 2016, and they brushed it up with a bit of money and enhanced it a bit. Still, a long way to go across the country, but it was a good first start.

You said that Rama responded. What about the First Nations community on the whole? Was it hard to sell the show to them and say, ‘Listen, we want to tell your stories of the community as well as the police force.’ How did that all work out?
SS: Well, any time that you have cameras in First Nation communities, in the past, especially in relation to certain media, it’s been a real negative experience for our people. As an Indigenous person, and producer, having that distinctive knowledge as a former reporter as well, knowing that we need to break down some barriers and let them know that we’re from the community. I’m not from Rama, but I’m of Indigenous ancestry here, and I’ve lived on reserve and off reserve. I certainly can connect and relate to the lifestyles in which we live on reserve across the country. It’s basically really winning over their trust, and of course, we always follow protocol with our crew. We did that through the police service and as well through the chief and council. And many meetings with them, and discussions with them about our approach and what we wanted to do.

It’s not an easy ask of a community, but at the same time, I think quite quickly, and watching through Season 1 you can see my approach in terms of how I want to relay my messaging through the work that the officers do, and as well how we want to portray the community as a whole. If you watched all of the episodes you would see quite quickly that 95 per cent of the time I’m staying in the positive light of what’s happening, and there are reasons and rationale for certain things that are happening. And using those factoids throughout the episodes, it enhances these reasons and rationale about why these things might happen and what supports might be out there, and those kinds of things. That’s something that I’m always trying to highlight.

A woman sits in a car.Not only are you seeing these police officers out on duty, but you’re also finding out about their home life. So can you talk about the importance of showing their behind-the-scenes lives once the uniforms come off?
SS: I think that’s really important. I think that’s one of the premises of the brainchild of the show when I first thought of this many years ago, was that we’re people too. I see myself still as a police officer all these years later, that when you’re out in the community, and you’ve got your gun and your badge and your car, and you’re out there doing your thing, that people just see you as this robot doing your job. When you take that all off, we’re all the same, we all have children, we all have families, we all have lives, and it’s really peeling back the layers of that officer, so you can see who he/she is, so you can a common understanding and be able to relate to that person a little bit more when you see them in community.

It just breaks down that barrier of the badge and the gun, and you’re there to take our kids away, which back in the day, and in the colonial times where our kids were taken away by police officers, there’s still that stigma out there. It’s really important to make sure that we highlight that in a visual way to just show that they’re everyday, great people, which honestly, all those officers we work with are incredible. Just amazing human beings.

From a production standpoint, what were some of the logistical challenges that you have? What were some of the logistical challenges of filming a documentary series where you don’t have a studio? You’re on the fly all the time.
SS: Well, the road is your studio, so wherever they’re going, we’re going, and logistically it can be a nightmare to be challenging. We’ve had the chase car get lost and going Code Three going to a call, we have radios, we have phones, we have that kind of technology to let our second crew know where we’re at and where we’re going. There was always a crew in the car with the officers responding to whatever it might be, and usually it’s myself in the back along with our sound guy. But it’s a careful, careful balance and the officers, we prep them. We went through the basics of what we require as a film crew to make sure that they’re aware that we have somebody that’s competent, a former police officer, who’s a producer, who understands what you might be dealing with in certain instances. You can actually talk to me about some of these files and cases, and I’ll know how to respond and know what to do, and share advice back and forth, which is amazing.

Number two, our safety is my responsibility moreso than it is on the officers, so don’t worry about us. I’ll be taking care of all of that. Just do your job, and we’ll make sure that we follow through in a safe way, and we won’t jeopardize whatever you’re doing in any way, shape or form that would impede on your work. So logistically, that was always a challenge to make sure that we had a chase car following, and the dynamics of that can change at any time. You just go with the flow. You can’t predict these kind of things, and you just have to go with what’s delivered, and try to make the best with what you have in the moment.

What can you say about what’s coming up in Season 2?
SS: We have a lot of stories that impact these officers. What you’re going to see from each episode as we go on is a recreation of those intense moments that really shook officers up, that really made them think about the work that they do, and how it affects them on an everyday basis, and how those little things such as PTSD might come into conversations about how they affect your everyday life and you can see that as we became friends with these officers, and how much that does impact many members that are out there across the country working when you have to deal with these tough files, so you’re going to see some water rescues, obviously some more tragedy, and as well some fun stories too as well. Some really cute stories involving wildlife and wilderness.

Of course the elders, the powwows, community events, which is really important, and you’ll see that we’ve ingrained a lot of Ojibwa language, which is really important for us as a production, is that language revitalization is something that we are honestly working so hard to make sure that we portray it in a different way that even though there’s probably not a lot of people that can understand the language, other than some of the elders in the community, there might be people beyond that, but we want to make sure that that’s something for the kids, for the youth, to say, ‘Hey, that’s really cool. That’s our language.’ And be able to hear it and see it on television happening, and that’s really what’s an integral part of what we’re trying to portray. So you’ll see a lot of that through all 13 episodes.

Tribal Police Files airs Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


APTN’s Tribal Police Files debuts

Anyone familiar with the show Cops will recognize the concept for  this program, but that is where the similarities end. Steve Sxwithul’txw, creator and producer of APTN’s Tribal Police Files states:

“There was a lot of stuff we left on the cutting room floor because it was too intense or it was too graphic and I am fine with that. Cops in the U.S. might be saying ‘that is gold, that is money we are going to use it.’  I chose not to, simply because the dignity of the people was more important to me than great TV ratings. When they say, ‘Hey shut that camera off,’ we are shutting it off and we are not following that story because of the sensitivity of the situation.”

Instead of sensationalist footage, Tribal Police Files depicts both the mundanity of police work and the risks inherent to the lives of police officers. Viewers follow along with officers as they receive a call, but we also get to know the families of officers. You will, over the course of this series, grow to relate with the characters who are themselves the officers. We gain access to their lives.

The mandate of the officers of Stl’atl’imx Nation is to remember where the people have been. If alcohol is involved, the officers understand the person who is intoxicated is intoxicated for a reason. A lot of the journey many of Stl’atl’imx Nation have had has been negative. You need to understand that there is a great deal of pain and hurt with the people these officers come into contact with on a daily basis. This group of officers from Stl’atl’imx Nation take pride that this is not a police force but rather a police service.

Tribal Police Files puts a human face to policing on “the rez” and drives home the point that not only are the constables doing a job but that they too have a family and loved ones.

“I want to bring across a show that is respectful, that respect the people of the Stl’atl’imx Nation, and the officers especially,” Sxwithul’txw says. Most of the officers are from the area and know the people they deal with on a first-name basis. They understand the  history.

Promotional behind the scenes clips can be seen at the Tribal Police Files Website

Tribal Police Files airs Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.


Steve Sxwithul’txw’s Tribal Police Files

I recently had the chance to catch up with producer and host of Tribal Police Files, Steve Sxwithul’txw. Debuting Friday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN, the 13-part documentary series explores the challenges faced by officers serving on B.C.’s only tribal police force, in the Lillooet region.

We covered a lot of ground in this brief conversation!

What was your motivation for creating a program about this particular police service team? What do you hope viewers come away with when they watch Tribal Police Files?
Steve Sxwithul’txw: For me, the thought behind Tribal Police Files was brought about a number of years ago from my personal experience as a police officer for eight years in B.C., around four of them with Stl’atl’imx Police Services. I have heard other police services across the country say, ‘No, we are community policing; we are focused on the citizens,’ but really that is not the case. However, these officers in the Lillooet region, they demonstrate the way community policing should really be done. They perform their duties while being culturally sensitive, being very understanding, and being very upfront with the people they police. Most of the people they deal with on a regular basis are people they know on a first-name basis.

But the thing that I really wanted to highlight: that these officers are just regular people. These are everyday people that have a job to do but, as well, they protect the public they want to serve and I think people, in general, have to respect that. They keep people safe, they have families, they have people that love them that they go home to at night. As a viewer, you are going to get attached to these officers and their families because you can see how forthright they are and how honest they are. I think that is something a lot of people in that community and across Canada do not know about police officers in general; they are everyday people with everyday lives.

Is the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police team unique from other self-administered policing programs across Canada?
This is an Indigenous Police Service that focuses on specific communities and specific land bases within the interior B.C. land region, so from that perspective yes for sure. The officers are provincial police officers and have powers throughout B.C., but they focus specifically on areas within the Stl’atl’imx Nation. Their style of policing—the way they deal with people—is much different than you would expect from big city police services across Canada and the RCMP. This is just a totally different approach. This is true community policing, which I think people will certainly appreciate when they start watching the show and start identifying with what the officers are trying to accomplish.

Foremost, they are trying to deal with people with respect and dignity, and they are dealing with people that they know. These officers are a part of the community, they are ingrained in community events, and they want to serve their people. That is a really important aspect that we want to highlight with the show.

I think the philosophy in Lillooet is the same with all other First Nations Police Services across Canada. One of the reasons this program came about is quite simple: the surrounding police services were out of touch with the people. They did not know them. The RCMP does not have a great reputation with First Nations across Canada. It never has. And that is one of the reasons I think that this type of policing strategy was developed in the 90s; so that First Nations could reach out and form their own service. This type of programming was seen as something that was culturally sensitive and something that was very responsive to the communities’ needs.

What do you hope other communities that are seeking to improve their own services take from the approaches adopted by the Stl’atl’imx Tribal Police Services?
I would encourage Chiefs and Councils in communities across Canada to think about this as a viable option. It is my understanding that the First Nations Policing Policy will be reviewed by the Trudeau government. Whether that comes true I don’t know, but it does need an update. It has needed an update for the past 15 years and it truly will affect whether people will stand behind First Nations policing. When an update occurs it will change the way you view police officers within your community. Sometimes [community policing] works, sometimes it doesn’t, but if you have a well-balanced board that is receptive to the needs of the officers, you are going to find that you are going to have a very, very successful police service if you decide to go down that road.

For those who watch who are not Indigenous, like myself, what do you hope we take away from Tribal Police Files if we choose to tune in? Why should we tune in?
It is important for the non-Indigenous audience to really try and make an effort to try and understand who we are as people. We are not all drunks, we are not people who have lower education standards, we are not people who continue to suffer in peril. We are people who are struggling to come through one the most tumultuous times in this country’s history. I am waving the flag of residential schools in terms of how it has affected our people in general. I mean, the Indian Act from there on has just turned our lives upside down and we continue to suffer from that.

I think where the non-Indigenous audience comes from is just not knowing the true history and not understanding where we come from. So for people who want to watch our show, yeah you will see some negative interactions with police. But you know what? You are going to see some culture, you are going to see some tradition and you are going to see some elders and you are going to see some youth. You will see a little bit of everything about a people who are trying to find their way in modern Canadian society and we use the police officers as a conduit to that. I think it is a real learning opportunity for our non-Indigenous audience to follow these officers, get to know them over the course of these 13 episodes, and then make your own decision, at the end of season, about what you really think policing is like on reserve.

 I was really struck from a philosophical position, this concept of Bridging. We hear Bridging and Reconciliation. These are the popular catchphrases, and yet as I watched this show, I was struck by the irony that these Indigenous officers are enforcing colonial policy and still approaching their duty, in a manner that is conducive to healing for the people within the communities.
That was something that I struggled with during my eight years as a police officer. You are using the laws of the land that were brought in by the colonial power. You are arresting people and taking people to jail. But in retrospect, ultimately, we are trying to keep people safe. We are trying to protect people on a regular basis so that they are not harming themselves, they are not harming others. And yes, that is right, it is a bridge to a modern-day society off the reserve that is something that our people still struggle with on a daily basis.

To be honest, this involves racism and stereotyping which is very much alive in today’s communities. So in a way, if this show bridges that a little bit, I hope so. And if it brings a broader understanding as to what police officers on reserve have to deal with daily, even better. I am hoping that people, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous will come along for the ride with us and feel like we are trying to make a difference in our communities with these police officers.

My thanks to Steve Sxwithul’txw for taking the time to speak with me!

Tribal Police Files debuts Friday, March 3, and can be seen Fridays at 7:30 p.m. ET on APTN.