Prince Albert police review recommendations released by Saskatchewan government

Prince Albert police say ‘issues are being looked at’.

Prince Albert police

Prince Albert police are under fire for an in-custody death. Photo: APTN

A special inquiry into Prince Albert police that took place amid ongoing concerns from Indigenous leaders recommends the Saskatchewan force complete a comprehensive policy review and develop a code of conduct when it comes to disciplining officers.

“The recommendations identified a number of areas for improvement within the Prince Albert Police Service,” Minister of Corrections and Policing Christine Tell said in a news release.

The Saskatchewan government released Tuesday the 45 recommendations from the independent review by former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht. The report, which investigated the force in the city 140 kilometres north of Saskatoon, was completed this spring.

The full report has not been made public.

“Government is working with the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners, the interim chief, and the Prince Albert Police Association to implement these recommendations and move forward so the people of Prince Albert can be confident in the service’s ability to keep them and their community safe,” Tell said.

The report was commissioned last year after a string of deaths in police custody and the killing of a toddler in Saskatchewan’s third largest city

Thirteen-month-old Tanner Brass was allegedly slain by his father after his mother called police for help. A Public Complaints Commission report found officers neglected their duty in the case by not checking on the Indigenous child’s well-being, instead taking his mother to the police station.

Former police chief Jonathan Bergen retired after the complaints commission report was released in May, citing personal attacks and character assassination, including by members of his own force.

Earlier this month, a 21-year member of the Prince Albert police was charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessaries of life after an investigation into the in-custody death of 33-year-old Saul Laliberte.

Laliberte’s death was the third to take place the custody of the police force over a few weeks in 2021.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan, called for accountability and better oversight of the beleaguered police force.

Those calls were heightened after the death of Boden Umpherville, who was seriously injured in an altercation with Prince Albert police officers in early April.

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The report’s recommendations noted a “number of serious issues within the (Prince Albert police) regarding discipline, grievances, relationships with senior management, the (Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners), and overall organizational impairment.”

Other recommendations include the creation of an annual strategic plan and clearly defined processes and training around discipline and human resources.

It recommended an internal training audit within six months of the report to enhance skill sets and morale, while reducing risk.

Nolan Carter, who leads the city’s police union, said in a statement that the recommendations are a “way to move forward in a lengthy process that has not been easy for any of our members at the police service.”

He said some recommendations have already been tackled by the interim police chief and others are being looked at. He noted the budget makes some recommendations more difficult without financial support.

“The Prince Albert Police Association has always maintained professionalism and commitment to the city and the people we serve, and we will continue to dedicate ourselves now and in the future to be better and do better,” he said.

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