A restored sign displayed at the Prince Albert police headquarters has more than a fresh coat of paint — its restoration honours the service’s history of connecting with Indigenous peoples.
That’s according to Chief Jon Bergen.
“I don’t think it had noticeable meaning, but yet it means so much. Now that it’s refinished and stands out as much as it does, I think the public will notice it more. I think the police members will be more aware of what it means,” he said.
The sign is composed of iron plates with images welded in, including a tree, wheat sheaf, and a figure with a head dress, representing an Indigenous chief.
In speaking with previous police chiefs, Bergen said he learned that the sign was originally displayed on a previous police station on 8th Street East. Then, it was painted over, and placed at the current headquarters when it opened in 1981.
Bergen believes the sign was built around 1963, but much of its story continues to be a mystery.
“We don’t know the history on who the artist was and who built it, but we’re interested in hearing from the community,” he said.
The sign was refurbished over a couple of days last week and hung back up on Friday.
“Our history tells an incredible story, and this sign was more of a story than I realized,” said Bergen.
He said the police service considered sandblasting it to its original state and leaving it raw, but was concerned that it would rust over time and drip down the building.
“We wanted to restore it as close to the original as we could.”
While the sign is intended to honour Indigenous peoples, the Prince Albert Police Service has been under critical watch for its response to calls involving Indigenous peoples.
This includes the death of Boden Umpherville, who was taken off of life support about three weeks after his arrest on April 1.
According to the Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), police used stun guns, collapsible batons and pepper spray during his arrest after officers stopped a vehicle that was reported stolen.
However, the police service has partnered with Indigenous organizations in an effort to improve its representation.
For example, the police service has worked with the Metis Nation — Saskatchewan to encourage and recruit more Metis people to pursue a career in policing.