Last Friday, the Prince Albert Police Association announced the results of a vote involving my leadership of our organization. The vote followed just weeks after an investigation had been ordered to examine our initial response to a call for service at the residence where Baby Tanner Brass died. That investigation has since been expanded by the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) and two members have been suspended. The investigation also includes a PCC review of the actions of three supervisory officers who were on shift at relevant times.
A previous vote occurred in 2020 and that also came soon after the ordering of an investigation that was led by the PCC and a separate physical arrest that raised concern with the public we serve. Later in 2020, our police service engaged an external consultant to conduct an independent review into the internal health of our organization. This review was part of a commitment to make our internal workplace more equitable and inclusive, so that we can continue our efforts to reflect the community we serve. In the fall of 2021, Farica Prince joined us as our new Deputy Chief of Police, moving from the Blood Tribe Police Service in southern Alberta. Last month, Lisa Simonson was appointed to the role of Inspector in Charge of Patrol to ensure more oversight and align our practices with policy and legislation. We have committed to partnerships with Metis Nation – Saskatchewan and Prince Albert Grand Council for mentorship programs that have already provided positive outcomes, as we have two (2) mentees in police college right now. We also launched our first ever in-house mental health and wellness program specifically for those who work with PAPS and their families, one of only a few of this type across the country.
Each time I’ve initiated investigations, it’s been in line with legislation that governs policing standards in our province and by which we are all bound in the course of our duties. The requirements under the Police Act are in place to ensure an independent investigation takes place and to ensure transparency and accountability within our community. As a police service, we have a great responsibility in our community, and it would be reckless not to look at our practices and improve our internal and external procedures to ensure we are following legislation and policy.
These investigations weigh heavily on our organization and can lead to uncertainty and fear. This is an anxious time for our members and I recognize the stress they must be feeling as the review continues. The approximately 150 members who make up the Prince Albert Police Service are compassionate and dedicated individuals and I am proud to serve with them.
The voice of the police association is critically important and helps inform our policy and practices. During my career, I also spent time on our executive of the police association, and understand the critical role the Association has in representing those who serve our community. Communication with and from the Association is essential to the work we do, and it must flow two ways. The issues raised by the Association last week have not been brought up with me or raised through a grievance process, as required under our collective agreement, despite regular opportunities for discussion.
Monthly meetings are scheduled with the Association executive to review labour management issues with myself and our administration team. We also meet Monday mornings with every unit of our service to discuss initiatives, trends, or projects. Members of the Association executive are invited to participate every week. In addition, a very detailed, multi-page newsletter is emailed weekly to all members who work at PAPS, detailing information from every area of the organization; equipment, training, budget, staffing levels, wellness initiatives, crime trends, ongoing investigations, and special projects.
We have also coordinated a new paramedic program with our health partners at the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) and Parkland Ambulance to ensure a paramedic is on site in our cell block detention area every night from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. with continuous planning and discussions to build on and further enhance our current paramedic coverage. To better manage an increase in all crime, we have added positions to our police service. In 2021, our police administration secured the additional funding to support eight new positions [seven (7) officers and one (1) civilian analyst], thanks to increased funding from our local municipal government and our provincial partners.
We know our officers on patrol are busy and continue to face high call volumes. In addition to their regular responsibilities, our proactive sections, including the Proactive Policing Unit, Community Policing Unit, Community Safety Officers, Police and Crisis Team (PACT), Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan (CTSS), Canine, Major Crimes, Child Protection, Victim Services, HUB, Intel, and Crime Reduction Team (CRT), all provide extra support for patrol members on investigations, and front-line support as needed.
Our service has invested in enhanced training and top-of-the-line equipment, including new ballistic vests, new duty holsters, vehicles, and tactical gear, to ensure the safety of officers while at work. In December, we approved a $27,000 budget expense to purchase additional equipment for officers on our SWAT team. This was an unplanned budget expense purchased at the request of our officers. Earlier in 2021, a request from officers was received detailing the benefits of a new holster that could accommodate under-barrel flashlights. These holsters were not approved by the provincial police commission to be used at the time, and so we requested permission to add them to our equipment and we are now approved to train and carry these newly approved duty holsters.
As our organization continues to grow and as new opportunities present themselves in other communities, we have experienced some transition with several officers moving on from PAPS. Since 2018, six officers have left to work with other police services, including the RCMP, Saskatoon Police Service, and Regina Police Service. We have also hired three experienced officers from other agencies during this time, and currently count 17 police officers working with PAPS who came here from other police services.
As an organization, we are proud to stand accountable in how we serve our community. There is more work to do and we know there are high expectations on our organization. Alignment with policy, enhanced training and supervision, having the right equipment for the job, accountability to the public, and transparency in our operations, are all ways we support the members of the Prince Albert Police Service in their service to our community. As Chief of Police, I am focused on enhancing our service to meet our community’s expectations and needs, and I remain committed to supporting our members in their service through training, equipment, enhanced oversight and adherence to policy and legislation.