Const. Steve Hanuse has two families: his home family with his wife and three daughters, and his Musqueam family.
A 23-year veteran of the Vancouver Police Department, Hanuse has been a department liaison on the Musqueam reserve since 2009. He sees his role as more coaching and mentoring than policing.
He knows most of the people who live on the reserve by name and attends their events, often with his family, in the evenings and on weekends. The size and makeup of the community allow him to be a part of things.
“In the city you deal with people, it is a one-off,” he said. “In Musqueam, they are part of my everyday life.”
Hanuse, a member of the Namgis First Nation of Alert Bay, was the first VPD liaison the Musqueam Band chose after submitting a resume and being interviewed. He was asked about his upbringing and philosophies. He also had to prove he was there to stay. Hanuse, 47, has no question where he wants to be. “I am not going to leave,” he said.
The respect and passion Hanuse expresses for the community seems to be reciprocated by residents. Wade Grant, a Musqueam councillor and member of the Vancouver Police Board, said almost every morning he sees Hanuse parked with little kids climbing on his car. “He’s not Officer Hanuse, he’s Steve,” Grant said.
Hanuse’s workmates say it’s his commitment and personality that have helped him build the trust he now enjoys.
“Steve truly gives of himself and routinely goes beyond the call to address concerns affecting the Musqueam community… and has forged relationships that tangibly demonstrate his desire to make a difference,” said VPD Insp. Steve Eely by email.
Hanuse usually starts his day by heading to the reserve for “breakfast club” where elders prepare a morning meal and a take-away lunch for elementary school children who go to schools off-reserve.
“It is a different way of policing,” Hanuse said. “Not all enforcement and policing.”
Hanuse works closely with the band security patrol, and a Musqueam-focused team of VPD members step in when he’s away. When he returns, they report to him that “everyone was waving at us, and with all their fingers,” said Hanuse.
The positive relationship Hanuse has with the Musqueam contrasts starkly with how he saw police as a young aboriginal man. “Things were much different then, not like it is now,” he said.
He had a “residential school survivor’s attitude” growing up, inherited from a history of seeing authority as a threat. The police were to be feared, he said. This Friday Hanuse serves as a pallbearer for a Musqueam member who recently passed away. “You know you are part of the community when,” he said.