Police chief vows to address national inquiry recommendations

Jonathon Bergen was announced as Prince Albert's next chief of police on Monday. (Jason Kerr/Daily Herald)

Prince Albert Police Chief Jon Bergen has committed to improving practices and policies at the force to address recommendations made in the final report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.

Bergen spoke publicly about the report Thursday morning prior to the 15th annual Prince Albert Women’s Commission memorial walk for missing and murdered Indigenous people.

The final report of the national inquiry was released publicly on June 3. The following day, Bergen asked for patience as he reviewed the document.

In the days following the release of the report, local activists and families had expressed concerns that not enough was being done by the local police to help confront the high number of Indigenous women and girls who go missing, are assaulted or killed every year.

Bergen used the invitation to speak at the annual walk as an opportunity to provide an update on the force’s progress reviewing the recommendations.

“A final report has been released this month with over 1,200 pages of stories,” he said.

“In those stories, we must learn and we must listen.”

The final report includes 231 calls for justice, with 37 aimed specifically and the police and others more broadly at the justice system.

“I have looked at each and every one (of the recommendations) on a  couple of occasions and studied what each call for justice says,” Bergen said.

“I know we can do things better. We are achieving in a number of areas, but I know there is room to improve.”

In a follow-up interview with the Daily Herald, Bergen confirmed that he had taken a deep read of the recommendations relating to the police, and has spent a majority of his time on those recommendations, but added that he has read all of the recommendations, and the stories told in the report itself.

Bergen said he has already met with the police force’s elder, Jacob* Sanderson, to review the specific calls for justice towards police services, and asked him to bring forward recommendations on where the force should go next and what is needed to improve.

He also shared the inquiry’s recommendations with the board of police commissioners to start that conversation with them.

Thursday, he had a discussion with the  PAGC Women’s Commission to engage them with the work going forward.

He’s hoping to keep working with the Women’s Commission as they look at policies relating to investigations, missing persons and violence against women.

‘They may be able to have a fresh look at those with us to make sure we’re meeting the needs of the community,” Bergen said.

“Moving forward, I am going to work with the community and engage groups such as the Women’s Commission to make sure our policies …. Are appropriate, that we’re dealing with those policies in the best way we can. If there’s room to improve, we will.”

*This is a corrected story. The first name of the police service’s elder was originally reported incorrectly. The Herald regrets the error.