Cops warned of hara*sment before ex-Saskatchewan police chief leaves office: memo

Officers of a beleaguered Saskatchewan police force were warned about hara*sing behavior in the weeks before their police chief accused members of personal attacks and defamation, internal documents show.

Jonathan Bergen announced last May that he was retiring from his position as chief of the Prince Albert Police Service, saying he had been the subject of “cowardly” attacks.

“What I do not expect from my department and the community that I trust and value is the level of aggression, aggressive personal attack and defamation against me and my team of direction, as well as the cruel and misdirected emotional a*sault on my family,” Bergen said. media on May 18.

Bergen alleged his wife and daughter had to clean up offensive posters put up in the town, 138 kilometers north of Saskatoon. He also claimed that his daughter had been followed by police officers.

On May 1, a memo was sent to all police force employees in Saskatchewan’s third largest city.

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“It has come to our attention that images of a poster considered offensive and hara*sing have been circulated not only within the community but also by members of our organization,” states the internal memo signed by three police inspectors.

The memo, obtained through freedom of information laws, does not describe what was on the poster or where it was displayed. The memo said the force condemns any form of hara*sment or discrimination. He asked officers to refrain from sharing the poster, adding that disseminating the image undermines the trust and mutual respect “that we strive to promote within our team.”

“The distribution of this image not only perpetuates the hara*sment of our staff but also goes against the values ​​of our organization,” he said.

Police have neither confirmed nor denied that the former chief made a formal complaint regarding the poster or any other hara*sing behavior.

Interim chief Patrick Nogier, who had been superintendent in Saskatoon before taking over in Bergen, said he could not speak about matters that happened before his arrival, adding that he also had to adhere to a Privacy Policy.

Nogier said internal hara*sment policies are extremely important and those at the Prince Albert Police Service align with provincial employment legislation.

“The Prince Albert Police Service places great importance on promoting a work environment free of hara*sment and conducive to the well-being of its approximately 135 members,” Nogier said in an email.

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These policies include preventive measures and a reporting mechanism, he said.

“Through education, training and open dialogue, we aim to create a culture that respects individual differences, upholds the law and serves the community to the best of our abilities,” Nogier said.

The service has come under heavy criticism in recent years. Bergen’s departure came the same day as the release of a report revealing 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.

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.

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

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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 the force was committed to a*sessing and responding to the recommendations.

“We are firm in our determination to meet the challenge and implement change effectively and efficiently,” Nogier said at the time.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published September 18, 2023.

&copy 2023 The Canadian Press

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