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Tribal Police Files looks at all aspects of the force

New APTN show filming around Lillooet



Steve Sxwithul'txw remembers vividly the call that made him decide to move on from the Stl'atl'imx Tribal Police Service.

The complaint was in regards to a domestic dispute. Sxwithul'txw arrived on the scene to find a man brandishing a knife, his backup still minutes away.

"It was a tense moment. My firearm was out. I didn't know what he was going to do," Sxwithul'txw recalled.

Through a lot of conversation and some "verbal judo," Sxwithul'txw was able to deescalate the situation, eventually arresting the man without bloodshed — but the incident stuck with him.

"That moment in time was probably the only time in my eight-year career I had to point my firearm at anybody with the probability that if he did something, I would have to use that firearm," Sxwithul'txw said.

"That was kind of like 'yeah, I think that's it for me.'"

Before long Sxwithul'txw had traded his gun and badge for a camera and a microphone.

This winter, the award-winning journalist is returning to his former beat to film a new show for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) — Tribal Police Files.

"It's a show that's really going to highlight, from the perspective of the police officers, their interaction with the community and with the people as they take on their day-to-day shifts," Sxwithul'txw said.

But the show won't take the sensational, often-violent approach of similar shows such as COPS, Sxwithul'txw said.

"It's a show that gives the positive aspects of what they do on a day-to-day basis," he said.

Often being from the community themselves, the relationship between Tribal Police officers and community members is much different than typical police/public relationships, Sxwithul'txw said.

"It's much more interactive, respectful, understanding," he said.

"It's a really unique experience, simply because you're not only a police officer, you're a social worker, you're a hospital attendant, you're a number of these things on a day-to-day basis."

But that's not to say the show won't feature its share of typical police drama. During a demo shoot in the area, Sxwithul'txw and his crew were kept busy, he said.

"We were there for a day and a half, and our day consisted of a child abduction, roadblocks, a couple of suicide attempts, domestic violence, parties, drunk driving," Sxwithul'txw said.

"You just don't know what it's going to be one day to the next, so I think you're going to get that (watching the show)."

But right from his initial pitch, Sxwithul'txw said he knew he wanted to strike a respectful tone with the show.

"It's really going to be a balanced show that's respectful, that highlights the beauty, the culture, the traditions of the Stl'atl'imx people for season one, and that was really important," he said.

"I think that was a real key selling point for me in terms of pitching it to the broadcaster and our funders, is that it will be respectful, but again, it will be informative. We're going to be learning what it takes to be a police officer in the community."

The show will also feature a robust website that will offer more of the back-stories of the force.

Viewers can follow along with the show on its Facebook page — Tribal Police Files — or Twitter @tribalpolicefil.

Though season one has just started shooting around Lillooet, Sxwithul'txw's producing instincts have already got him bouncing ideas around for season two.

"I know several tribal police services across Canada are interested in our cameras coming into their communities to highlight their work as well, so I'm hoping that APTN will want to come along with the ride on that, and that we give them a season one they just can't refuse," he said.

Tribal Police Files doesn't have a set airdate just yet, but with production on season one scheduled to wrap next September, Sxwithul'txw expects it to air on APTN in the fall of 2016.

More than a decade removed from his time on the force, Sxwithul'txw looks back on it fondly — though he's probably more comfortable pointing a camera than a gun.

"It's such a contrast," he said, of his careers past and present.

"It's hard to believe, but honestly that's the story, and here I am again. I've come full circle."