Prince Albert police Chief Jon Bergen spoke about the service’s history, goals and statistics at a Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Tuesday.
Deputy Mayor Don Cody, City Manager Jim Toye and Board of Police Commissioners members were a few of many in attendance.
Elise Hildebrandt from the Prince Albert Chamber of Commerce started the presentation with an Indigenous land acknowledgement before introducing Bergen.
Bergen spoke about its importance, saying that land acknowledgments are a way to fulfill the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
“Our Indigenous population in Prince Albert is over 14,000 people. That’s roughly 42 per cent of our population, one of the highest ratios in any Canadian city,” he said.
Bergen went on to tell a history of the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS). He said it was established in 1886—before Regina’s and Saskatoon’s—and before Saskatchewan even became a province.
The slideshow showed a breakdown of PAPS members, including 75 officers funded by the city, 20 funded by the province, three funded by SGI who work in Combined Traffic Services Saskatchewan (CTSS), five bylaw officers, 25 permanent civilian staff and 13 dispatchers, with 37 vehicles and owning four buildings.
One of these buildings will be a police sub-station located downtown. It’s currently under renovation. Bergen said about 45 staff will be based out of the 15,000 square foot building.
“There’s a number of things that we liked about that—being in the downtown area is one thing. There’s parking available, that was a significant one. Being close to City Hall and the university, it all made sense,” he said.
He said the police service is working to employ more female officers. Their Women in Policing Information Night takes place on Wednesday evening at Carlton Comprehensive High School.
Bergen also highlighted the Police and Crisis Team (PACT). Two senior officers are working with members of the Saskatchewan Health Authority for mental health crisis calls.
“(They) provide that care that’s needed that a frontline officer typically doesn’t have the time or the ability to commit to,” he said.
“We recognize today (Tuesday) is World Suicide Prevention Day. I just looked at some data and we had 4,000 Canadian deaths last year alone related to suicide (and) 209 in Saskatchewan alone.”
Bergen also spoke about the rising use of firearms in Prince Albert.
“This has been scary for the community and the police. We’re dealing with more guns than we ever have and this trend started in 2016 only. It was pretty unusual to come across a firearm and I think probably every one of us sitting at this table will remember the first time you seized a pistol or responded to a shooting. Now that’s become more common, unfortunately.”
He said they’ve seized 75 guns so far this year.
When Bergen brought up a graph about homicides in the city, he gave a disclaimer that the police recognize each as “individual tragedies.”
The graph showed a peak in 2019 with five homicides. The last time the city has seen that many was in 2003.
Last year, the police had just over 36,000 calls for service. So far this year, they’ve had over 27,000 with 12,000 of those in June, July and August. Bergen joked that, of course, this is when their staff typically take holidays.
He added that they lay an average of 6,000 criminal code charges in a year.