The Prince Albert Police Service has been the subject of community focus in recent weeks, particularly in regard to public concerns voiced on behalf of an Indigenous mother whose 13-month-old child’s death was allegedly caused by the child’s father. Two officers attended at the residence responding to a report of a domestic dispute, and left the residence with the mother. The child was found deceased that same date after Prince Albert Police were later called back to the residence.
Chief of Police Jonathan Bergen turned the matter over to the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission (PCC) in order that an independent investigation of the police handling of the matter would be conducted.
Criminal charges have been laid against the father, and those charges are proceeding through court.
Amid recent calls from Indigenous leaders for the police service and the officers involved to be held immediately accountable, Chief Bergen has publicly indicated that, to ensure transparency and accountability, investigation of police response to the dispatch was placed in the hands of the Public Complaints Commission. “In order to preserve due process and the integrity of the independent investigation process,” said Bergen, “it is important that our police service now conduct its decisions and response on the basis of legal process and the best information that comes from the investigation by the independent agency.” He had previously indicated that next steps would be taken by the Prince Albert Police Service once he received further information from the PCC.
Chief Bergen has issued a statement today confirming that the PCC yesterday confirmed to him the scope of the investigation.
“We understand that based on the PCC’s analysis of the preliminary evidence available, the scope of the independent investigation will include a full investigation of the nature and implications of the response undertaken by the two officers who attended the first call to the residence, based on legal standards imposed on police by legislation and by police conduct regulations”, says Bergen.
Based on that information, Chief Bergen has suspended the two officers from active duty pending the outcome of the independent investigation. According to Bergen, further decisions will be based on the facts and evidence that the PCC investigation will ultimately report on.
Bergen reports that the PCC has advised him that its investigation will also look into circumstances surrounding any responsibility attributable to three senior supervisory officers at relevant times during the shift on the date in question.
Bergen is confident that the community will closely follow the independent process through to its completion in order that judgments of any officer are made with the benefit of full and accurate information from the PCC investigation, however it turns out.
Nevertheless, he understands the emotion and context of the comments being raised in the media. “We hear the expectation of us, we are listening, and as a police service we are committed to continuing to listen and to live up to the expectation on us”, says Bergen.
Deputy Chief of Police Farica Prince has been the liaison for the Police Service who is coordinating discussion with local Indigenous officials. “Our police administration is strongly resolved with our Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners to continue a constructive and meaningful dialogue on these issues with Indigenous leadership local to our community”, said the Deputy Chief.
Chief Bergen says that he is committed to ensuring the Prince Albert Police Service is responsive to the community’s expectations. “Our members are highly trained to do increasingly difficult work in service of all members of our community. We have high standards and expectations of our members in how they conduct themselves in performance of their duties, and in how they, with the Service, will stand accountable for that.“
The child’s father remains in custody and is next scheduled in Prince Albert Provincial Court on March 14th, 2022. He stands charged with second degree murder. The charges have not yet been proven in court.