Prince Albert police officer charged following 2021 in-custody death

Herald file photo

A 21-year member of the Prince Albert Police Service is facing charges of criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life in connection to an in-custody death.

Saul Laliberte, 33, died in the police detention facility on Nov. 7, 2021.

Police did not release the identity of the officer. A court date has been scheduled for July 25.

“It’s a very delicate situation for the organization because we’re continually having to be that go-to resource,” said interim police Chief Patrick Nogier.

“But we’re not a health care facility, we’re not equipped as a health care facility.”

Nogier temporarily stepped in as chief less than a month ago, coming from the Saskatoon Police Service. Although he was aware of the criticism the police service has been facing – both from the public and internally – he said he provides a fresh perspective on where improvements could be made.

“Things like ensuring that we’ve got access to EMS 24/7, rather than just 12 hours, which is currently implemented at night time, those are things that can enhance our ability to respond.”

Paramedics are on-site at the police detention centre from 7:30 p.m. to 7:30 a.m. The initiative was first announced in 2021 to better support people with addictions.

Prince Albert police arrested Laliberte on outstanding warrants. He was found unresponsive in his cell at about 7:30 p.m. that evening.

On-site paramedics provided emergency care, but he was later pronounced dead in hospital.

This was one of three in-custody deaths that occurred within three weeks in Prince Albert in the fall of 2021.

Nogier said administration has been doing its best to support its members in times of critique. He said many officers are facing “off-coloured” comments about what they represent.

“Everything from sitting and listening and trying to provide reassurances that this is a test of resiliency for the organization,” he explained.

“A lot of the officers, the men and women that have the uniform on, had nothing to do with this circumstance, but are still going to be the ones that are in the public eye.”

Nogier added that it’s important to be transparent with the public – but that has its limits.

Prince Albert interim police Chief Patrick Nogier speaks at an Indigenous Day event in June 2023. — Jayda Taylor/Daily Herald

“Sometimes we’re bound by confidentiality, sometimes we’re bound by process, we need to follow due process,” said Nogier.

“I’ll try to provide as much information as possible that allows people to understand the context by which decisions are being made. It doesn’t necessarily mean that I have the ability to give them everything.”

Nogier came to Prince Albert as interim chief following former chief Jon Bergen’s retirement from the police service.

His departure came after the Public Complaints Commission released a report about the police service’s response to events leading to a 13-month-old’s death.

Police have also been criticized about the death of Boden Umpherville. The 40-year-old man died from injuries sustained in an altercation with police in April.

Despite these incidents, Nogier said he’s seen the dedication and drive that the police service needs to keep the community safe.

“I feel really confident about us staying strong through this and being able to maintain, and maybe rebuild, trust within the community.”

–with files from Bailey Sutherland/Daily Herald