By Chevi Rabbit, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
(ANNews) – The Edmonton Police Service (EPS) is leading the charge in modernization, attracting individuals who embody diversity and a commitment to serving the community. This commitment was aptly portrayed in Recruit Training Class 157, which convened on October 27, 2023, featuring 35 individuals from diverse backgrounds united by a common goal – to become police officers. Constable Torrell Red Iron, a standout in this cohort, symbolizes the Edmonton Police Service’s remarkable progress in recognizing and embracing the diversity within their population. As a proud Métis recruit, Torrell personifies the inclusive direction that the EPS is embracing.
Torrell’s venture into law enforcement is intertwined with a family legacy rooted in upholding the law, a history of service, and fostering positive change. In many ways, both he and his father, Barry Red Iron, emerge as role models within the Indigenous community, embodying a commitment to service and contributing to the well-being of their community. In an interview with Alberta Native News, both father and son offer insights into their collective experiences, and provide a revealing look into law enforcement.
Born in Calgary, Torrell’s connection to law enforcement traces back to his father’s distinguished career with the RCMP, guiding the family through various regions in northern Alberta – the Slave Lake area, Bigstone Cree Nation, and Wabasca, eventually settling in the Leduc area. This upbringing instilled in Torrell a profound connection to the region and a deep appreciation for Indigenous communities.
Torrell’s experience working with vulnerable populations forms a crucial aspect of his perspective on effective policing. “Having some college, university, or even work experience will help anyone because it adds maturity,” he notes. Drawing on his background with the Native Counselling Services of Alberta at Buffalo Sage Wellness House and Stan Daniels Healing Centre, Torrell emphasizes the importance of maturity in navigating complex situations.
Recognizing the gravity and respect behind the badge, Torrell underscores the humanitarian outlook required when dealing with people’s lives daily. “The importance of policing lies in the fact that you are dealing with people’s lives every day, and you’re interacting with individuals regularly,” he emphasizes, acknowledging the profound impact officers can have on individuals.
His reflections on the criminal justice system highlight the pivotal role of the first interaction with a police officer. “The initial stage of the criminal justice system, and a positive interaction with a police officer, can go a long way in how the public perceives the police forces,” he affirms, recognizing the lasting impressions left by both positive and negative interactions.
In evaluating EPS’s efforts, Torrell specifically applauds the significant strides in providing culturally inclusive programming for Indigenous officers. He emphasizes, “The EPS is doing a lot of programming…especially addressing the needs of various communities in the Edmonton region, with a focus on empowering Indigenous engagement through culture.” Torrell highlights these changes, noting that individuals who are Indigenous and wish to explore their culture through an EPS lens can now do so, thanks to the tailored program offerings at EPS. This reflects a meaningful step towards cultural empowerment and understanding within the police force.
“EPS offers an opportunity to grow culturally… keeping with my indigenous roots.”
Torrell emphasizes the importance of maturity and a broad perspective, stating, “I think it’s beneficial for many reasons. Maturity comes with age, and as you age, the depth of one’s experiences, whether through personal life, university, college, or work, contributes significantly to effective policing.” He concludes by recognizing the value of life experiences in shaping a police officer’s effectiveness, highlighting that having a depth of knowledge is undeniably beneficial in the role.
In navigating the complexities of reconciliation through a police force lens, Torrell emphasizes the need for understanding and patience. “A little bit of a more rounded perspective” is needed, he states, acknowledging the intricate dynamics involved in the process, “because these are people’s lives.”
In a separate interview, Retired RCMP Corporal Barry Red Iron expressed pride in his son’s achievements, highlighting Torrell’s dedication to redefining modern EPS policing. Barry emphasized Torrell’s background in Native counseling and working with vulnerable populations as valuable lenses, coupled with the authenticity of his Métis heritage.
Reflecting on his upbringing, Barry, mentioned that his own father, Torrell’s grandfather, left the reserve in Saskatchewan and led the family to Alberta. In later years, Torrell’s father obtained Métis status rather than a First Nation Status Card, highlighting the complex nature of both processes.
Applauding Torrell’s dedication, Barry noted his son’s fascination with Aboriginal culture at a young age and his immersion in Indigenous communities during schooling. He emphasized that his children were raised to give back and respect everyone, important values that shaped Torrell’s experiences in the Slave Lake area.
Torrell’s accomplishments at the Native Counselling Services of Alberta with Buffalo Sage Wellness House and Stan Daniels Healing Centre, where he completed a Criminal Justice-Policing diploma at Lethbridge College, were pivotal experiences, said Barry. Torrell’s diverse background and educational achievements contribute to his ability to serve as an EPS officer effectively, allowing him to help people in various situations, he added.
Barry wants Alberta Native News readers to know that officers are humans, too. “Being an officer is a job; it’s a calling that people want to help the communities,” he said.
“That’s probably the number one thing: don’t look at them (officers) like evil. They’re just people like you or me, and that’s the path they want to help people with.”
To conclude the interview, Torrell acknowledged that his life “wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows.” However, he notes his current ability to move forward and shape a future where interactions align with how families would want to be treated by police officers or fellow citizens.
“It’s about fostering respectful and positive engagement,” he said, emphasizing the transformative power of respectful community interactions.