The provincial government has promised to pay $1.5 million to the Akwesasne Mohawk Police Service(AMPS) to help establish a Snowmobile, All-terrain vehicle, and Vessel Enforcement Unit(SAVE) as a two-year pilot project.
AMPS announced the news during the Mohawk Council’s general community meeting in December, that it would be getting a dedicated anti-smuggling patrol unit after they signed a deal with the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services on Nov. 15.
The Mohawk community of Akwesasne is situated on an international border between two countries, Canada and the United States, and the two provinces of Quebec and Ontario, and law enforcement officials say it is known to be a high traffic area for smuggling.
“The objective of the SAVE unit will be to reduce the smuggling of drugs, weapons, humans, alcohol and tobacco through the community of Akwesasne by detaining and arresting persons involved in these activities and organized crime,” said AMPS Insp. Lee Ann O’Brien. “This will be especially important in the summer months when the waterways are particularly busy, and there are a lot of swimmers and stuff in the channels and on islands.”
The agreement with the federal government provides funding to pay for salaries, equipment, facilities and training for two years; with $600,000 being paid out in 2018 and $800,000 in 2019.
The SAVE Unit would be made up of three officers; one sergeant and two patrol constables and one civilian staff member. AMPS is hoping to recruit from within their force and additional training would be provided if needed.
“They will receive snowmobile and ATV training, as well as ice-rescue training, surveillance techniques and public relations. Most of our members have already received the marine vessel operation course,” said the inspector.
Aside for watching for and arresting people engaging in smuggling, the SAVE unit will also be gathering and sharing intelligence as well as engaging in “joint force operations” with other law enforcement agencies, such as the RCMP, as required.
The Akwesasne Mohawk police is already a member of the Cornwall Regional Task Force of different law enforcement agencies responsible for anti-smuggling patrols on the Canadian side of the St. Lawrence River.
Funding will also cover the purchase of equipment for SAVE such as snowmobiles, ATVs, a new pickup truck with trailers, and even military-grade night vision and thermal vision goggles. The police force has already begun work on a new dock and boathouse for the unit to use as well.
Creating the unit is still in “phase 1,” said O’Brien, with the police force focused on deciding how to assess the team’s performance.“We are developing performance measurements, including benchmarking measures. We are also developing operating protocols for the team with the RCMP, the OPP and our marine units.”
Sources: (Standard freeholder, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, AMPS)
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