The Prince Albert Police Service has announced three in-custody deaths in recent weeks. Each is a tragedy for our community and a devastating loss for families who have lost loved ones. As a police service, we recognize there are many questions and we acknowledge concerns from community leaders, residents, and advocacy groups about safety, supervision, and oversight in police cells. The very thorough investigative process that follows each in-custody death can be lengthy – often taking months or even years – and our organization recognizes the strain that can result from such investigations and the impact that these investigations can have on trust and relationships within the community.
Each of these incidents has its own set of individual facts and as an organization, we support a thorough and complete investigation by outside, independent police agencies with public oversight from independent observers. The Prince Albert Police Service has had discussions with community leaders in recent weeks to address concerns and questions and is committed to continued dialogue on policies and procedures that impact the health and safety of the public and those who come into our custody.
As a police organization, we also acknowledge the stress and anxiety on our members and staff, including our front-line officers and detention area staff. In-house and online supports continue to be available through our wellness strategy to assist members and staff.
As we await the findings of each independent investigation, our police service is reviewing recommendations from previous coroner’s inquests into in-custody death investigations. Previous recommendations, including the results of a 2014 inquest and recommendations from a coroner’s inquest following an in-custody death in 2018, are in place to support an enhanced response to detainees in medical distress, ongoing commitment to maintain and secure best video and audio coverage in the detention area, improved training for guards and matrons, and increased supervision and oversight of our detention area.
This is in addition to a pilot partnership with Parkland Ambulance and the Saskatchewan Health Authority that ensures on-site medical care and supervision is available in our cell block seven days a week between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. The police service continues to partner on initiatives aimed at better supporting vulnerable members in our community, including the Police and Crisis Team (PACT), which connects vulnerable residents with services and social supports in the community; and participates in the HUB model, in which representatives from various support agencies in the community are working together to address public safety concerns.
As an organization, we trust and have faith in the impartial review processes in place and support transparency and accountability as these investigations move forward. While our police service cannot comment on the specifics of each file being investigated by outside agencies, we will continue to work with our community and our partners to ensure open communication and transparency in our overall police response, policy, and training, and our work to better serve the community of Prince Albert.