The Prince Albert Police Service has been working for more than three months now to shake off the harsh criticism that has clouded the organization in recent years.
“In three months, although it is a relatively short period of time, we will have a very good working base at the Prince Albert Police Service,” said Acting Police Chief Patrick Nogier.
“We are going to show people what we mean to the community.
“When I arrived here, there was a great desire to get involved. There was a lot of willingness to sit down and discuss topics. There wouldn’t always be areas of agreement, but the fact that they were willing to come to the table and discuss progress was encouraging and that continues today.
The service has faced criticism and scrutiny from the public and other organizations in recent years.
Former Chief Jonathan Bergen’s retirement came the same day as the release of a report finding that two police officers neglected their duty in the hours before the death of a toddler.
A Public Complaints Commission report found police responding to a domestic violence call failed to check on the welfare of 13-month-old Tanner Bra*s and left him “vulnerable and in danger”.
The boy’s father, Kaij Bra*s, has been charged with second-degree murder and his trial is scheduled for next year.
Bergen claimed he and his family have since faced hara*sment from the public and his own officers.
Earlier this year, a 21-year-old police officer was charged with criminal negligence and failure to provide basic necessities following an investigation into the in-custody death of 33-year-old Saul Laliberte.
Laliberté’s death was the third to occur in police custody in a few weeks in 2021.
Prince Albert Police Association president Nolan Carter said it will take time to repair the force because the wounds within the organization run so deep.
“Chief Nogier wants to make changes and wants members to enjoy coming to work. The problem is that the wounds caused by the previous chief run very deep,” Carter said in an emailed statement to PKBNEWS.
“The lack of communication from the province has cast a shadow of confusion over the direction of the service. An investigation was conducted, the results were published, but the story of how we arrived at these results remains hidden. We need transparency and accountability and it must come from the province.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, which represents 74 Saskatchewan First Nations, has called for accountability and better oversight of the force.
The Saskatchewan government has appointed former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht to lead an independent review of Prince Albert police, amid concerns about operations and criticism from Indigenous leaders.
Its full report has not been made public, but the province released its 45 recommendations, which included a comprehensive policy review. He also recommended that police develop a code of conduct when it comes to disciplining officers.
The report’s recommendations identify “a number of serious problems within the (Prince Albert Police) regarding discipline, grievances, relationships with senior management, the (Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners) and overall organizational deficiency.”
Nogier said policing is not easy these days.
“It has changed dramatically. When we get to the level of violence in the streets, when we find ourselves with individuals who totally disregard public authority, who do not stop to face the police, the pursuits, all these kinds of things become and make very risky environment.
Despite the challenges, he said the force was committed to a*sessing and responding to the recommendations.
Upon his arrival, he ensured that the force’s hara*sment policy was reviewed and complied with industry standards and provincial laws.
“A successful organization is one that fosters an environment that people want to come to work in, that provides them with the tools that allow them to get the job done, that you support them in different ways, that you support them when times are tough. hard and provide them with advice.
Nogier said one of the biggest changes to the force so far has been improving its alternative call response program.
“The number of files and calls that the community was accustomed to in response to a police officer being on a call – we knew that was not sustainable. »
Nogier said in a community like Prince Albert, the right answer has to come at the right time.
“The community probably expects that when something happens related to criminal activity, it will affect them, and they want a response from the police. They want to speak to a police officer.
The force has attempted to raise awareness in the community that other resources are available through alternative call response, such as online reporting.
“We want to make sure people feel heard. »
Police are also reviewing how cellblocks are managed, including ensuring they are properly supervised and increasing the number of officers on the streets at any time.
The force is also seeking to strengthen its external relationships by amending its collective agreement and to build trust through collaboration.
“It’s almost like a tripartite relationship where the Board of Police Commissioners, the police executive and the police services a*sociation are now working in unison to try to identify what needs to be done to move forward from the front,” explained Nogier.
He noted that officers in Prince Albert face unique challenges that larger teams in other provinces or cities may not be able to meet.
“Many of our front-line officers carry a caseload that would be considered large in other jurisdictions – complex in other jurisdictions – and when you look at the tenure of officers who are here, you see officers who are still in office. learn to become highly confident police officers.
He said some officers are still learning how to conduct thorough investigations, write warrants accurately and review information to be obtained.
“It’s a good sign for the future,” Nogier said. “What they experience very early in their career, they’re going to become very good at what they do.”
The Prince Albert Police Association said the force must look to the future and recommended that the announcement of a new leader be made public immediately, noting Nogier’s interim status.
“The previous chief caused so much damage that it will take time to repair it and with Chief Nogier only having six months to do so, it is not reasonable,” Carter said. “To get stability started, the Prince Albert Police Association would like to see a chief position increase. This still hasn’t been done, so what will happen once Chief Nogier’s term is over?
Nogier’s contract calls for him as interim chief until November 30.
We still don’t know what will happen at the end of his contract.
Like Nogier, Carter also pointed out that the force was understaffed, calling for more officers on front-line patrols, whether through recruiting or reshuffling special units.
“It’s difficult because some positions are externally funded, but we need to start thinking outside the box and we need the support of these external agencies to make this happen,” Carter said.
He said the province hasn’t stepped in to help since the cabinet shuffle.
“Minister Tell is no longer here. His replacement, Minister Merriman, will hopefully keep his foot on the pedal to help him, but there has been no contact as of yet.”
Contacted by PKBNEWS, the ministry insisted it was working with the group.
“The Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety is working with the Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners, the Acting Chief and the Prince Albert Police Association to ensure that the people of Prince Albert can have confidence in their police department,” reads a press release. of the ministry.
“Maintaining public confidence in policing is essential as the Prince Albert Police Service moves forward with implementing the recommendations and strives to ensure an effective level of policing in the community . Minister Merriman looks forward to working with the Saskatchewan Police Commission to ensure the safety and security of all Saskatchewan residents.