Port Alberni’s Indigenous Policing Services is using the sound of bagpipes to reach out to local First Nations communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Indigenous Policing Services team, which consists of Cpl. Jay Donahue, Cst. Pete Batt and Cst. Beth O’Connor, has been working within and with the four Nuu-chah-nulth nations in the Port Alberni area, making regular patrols.
With people self-isolating in their homes, citizens from several Nations had concerns that the police were not present.
Members of the Indigenous Policing Services team were interacting with community members when called upon, but at most times the community didn’t know they were out there, said Batt.
“They were isolated inside and didn’t see us drive by. So what do we do?” Batt wondered.
Batt, a 13-year veteran of the RCMP, with six of those in the Indigenous Policing Services, decided to actively embrace his Scottish ancestry.
“In times of old, when a chief from the Scottish Highlands entered another clan’s territory, the chief had a piper lead the procession,” explained Batt. “When the other clan heard the pipes, they would know who was coming—the pipes were a way for the chief to say, ‘I am here.’ So why not play the bagpipes in the community, so the people who don’t see me can hear me?”
The bagpipe message allows the RCMP to broadcast the message to as many people as possible, while respecting social distancing protocol.
The idea has been well-received so far, said Batt.
“A Huu-ay-aht First Nation citizen said that it not only let people know I was there, but the music lifted their spirits,” said Batt. “Others, just knowing that I’m around, have come by to see me or flagged me down while I’m in the area.”
Nancy Logan of Haahuupayak School agreed that the word is out that Cst. Batt is out in the community.
“I’m hearing that others also appreciate the efforts and really enjoy it,” said Logan. “Hearing it gets people talking.”