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PAGC leaders hopeful meeting with police will lead to improvements

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PAGC leaders hopeful meeting with police will lead to improvements
A Prince Albert police officer arrests a suspect after a takedown in a still shot of a video posted on June 26, 2020. -- Rez R Us / Facebook

Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) leaders say they hope a recent meeting with Prince Albert police will lead to an improved relationship between police and First Nations residents.

Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte and Vice Chief Joseph Tsannie met with police on June 29 to discuss a video showing a Prince Albert police officer physically restraining a suspect while investigating a complaint.

“We went through the sequence of events shown in the video and questioned the handling of the individual by the police officer, because it appeared that he was not resisting arrest,” Hardlotte said in a media release. “It’s similar to what is happening in other parts of the country. We believe this incident underscores our historic grievances that our First Nation members have been treated harshly based on their race and lifestyles.”

“The meeting was an opportunity to share the hurt and anger felt by the individual and his family and to candidly talk about ways we can address these longstanding issues experienced by our members at large,” Tsannie added. “We hope this will lead to continued discussions on the work that is needed to promote changes in law enforcement culture and practices, which will not only enhance respectful policing, but improve police-community relations for the benefit of all living here.”

Police and PAGC leaders discussed the techniques police officers are taught in training, such as de-escalation and effective communication. They also discussed options surrounding a Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission review.

Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen said he was encouraged by the meeting, and shares the PAGC’s concerns about safety and protection.

“We appreciated the opportunity to sit down with leaders from the Prince Albert Grand Council to hear their concerns and learn how we can improve our police response to better meet the needs of the community,” Bergen said in a press release. “As a police service, we are accountable to the public and for ensuring public safety for all in order to maintain the trust and confidence of those we serve.”

Video posted on the Rez R Us Facebook page shows two police officers arresting two different suspects. One of those police officers throws a suspect to the ground face-first. The suspect was originally pinned up against the side of a police vehicle while being arrested.

Hardlotte said Prince Albert police and the PAGC have been building a trusted relationship, but worries incidents like this will set those efforts back.

Police say officers are trained to use the takedown technique shown in the video.

The incident occurred around 8 p.m. on June 26 along 32nd Street West. Police were called to the scene after complaints that a man was trying to start fights with multiple people.