Nelson Bird column

I’ve been a journalist for 20 years and in that time I reported on hundreds of stories about First Nation and Metis people. Some were good news stories and some were not but most were memorable.

I moved on from telling stories to assigning stories to other journalists. For the past year and half my role at CTV Regina has been about making sure our coverage is objective, concise and timely.

It is a vital and demanding role often times extremely stressful. I often have to make quick decisions on how a story is covered or if it should be covered at all.

One important duty of all assignment editors is to monitor police, fire, and emergency radio scanners.  Their two-way radios are sending out information 24 hours a day and it’s a sound we get used to. The content however is often difficult to hear.  We hear of vehicle and/or pedestrian accidents, medical emergencies, robberies, and the list goes on.

The dispatchers, police officers, and EMT staff have their own lingo and codes for each incident. For example when police says there’s been a ‘9-06’, it means a homicide. A ‘9-27’ is a Drunk and Disorderly person.

But the phrase I hear the most is “Native Male.”

At least once every couple of hours all day long and well into the evening Native Males are being discussed on police scanners. Sometimes it is a 9-27 (drunk and disorderly) and sometimes it’s as simple as a 9-56 (parking complaint), but many times I monitor the action of the incident and I get emotional.

Countless times a native male has punched a woman while they were in a public place. Sometimes an assault will happen with small children in the same room.

Last week a group of native males invaded a home carrying knives and threatened everyone in the house.

But it isn’t only Native Males. I hear of other groups but nowhere near as much as Native Males. But I often wonder why that is. Is it because police tend to get more calls about Native Males thus the constant scanner talk?

My instinct tells me that other races tend to commit crimes also but we don’t hear about them as much probably because they take place behind closed doors and very few people will ever hear about them.

The police scanner also has a high tendency to talk about ‘Native Females’ as well. Sadly it’s not good either.

Often they are victim in an assault and at times, they are also at the centre of an unfortunate incident.

Earlier this week we heard of a woman with a newborn baby staggering drunk and falling over.  Hearing of these incidents takes a toll. Our staff often discusses these and wonders what’s going on.

I also feel for the police and EMTs who must respond to them on a daily basis.

I am not placing blame on anyone or any group. This type of thing probably happens in every major city.  An American city might be over represented by ‘Black Males’ when it comes to police scanners.

I also regularly hear the scanner mentioning ‘Caucasians’.

And recently we heard the term ‘Metis Male’ which made me ask ‘how do they know he’s Metis? Is he wearing a sash?

Hearing the stories from the scanner takes an emotional toll and how we deal with it varies from person to person.  Whether it is the journalist assigned to cover the stories or the police officer who must deal with it first hand, it is never easy, but it is a reality.

For me, at the end of the day our newscasts will reflect the news of the day, and there will often be Indigenous people in our coverage.

Sometimes good and other times not so good.

Nelson Bird is a member of the Peepeekisis First Nation.
The views shared are those of Nelson Bird and not those of CTV News.

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