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Home News Prince Albert Police Service addresses third in-custody death with prepared statement

Prince Albert Police Service addresses third in-custody death with prepared statement

Prince Albert Police Service addresses third in-custody death with prepared statement
Herald file photo

The Prince Albert Police Service reiterated their support for a thorough and transparent investigation into the deaths of three people who passed away while in police custody recently.

The most recent death occurred on Nov. 7, when a 33-year-old man was found unresponsive in a police cell at around 7:30 p.m. that evening.

“As a police service, we recognize there are many questions and we acknowledge concerns from community leaders, residents, and advocacy groups about safety, supervision, and oversight in police cells,” the statement reads. “The very thorough investigative process that follows each in-custody death can be lengthy—often taking months or even years—and our organization recognizes the strain that can result from such investigations and the impact that these investigations can have on trust and relationships within the community.”

According to the statement, PAPS will review recommendations from previous inquests into in-custody deaths that occurred in 2012 and 2018. They also reiterated their support for partnerships with local organizations like the Police and Crisis Team (PACT) and Parkland Ambulance, who provides medical care and supervision inside cell blocks between the hours of 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m.

“As an organization, we trust and have faith in the impartial review process in place, and support transparency and accountability as these investigations move forward,” the statement reads. “While our police service cannot comment on the specifics of each file being investigated by outside agencies, we will continue to work with our community and our partners to ensure open communication and transparency in our overall police response, policy, and training, and our work to better serve the community of Prince Albert.”

The PAPS statement also acknowledged that the deaths were a devastating loss for families, and a tragedy for the community.

“Each of these incidents has its own set of individual facts, and as an organization, we support a thorough and complete investigation by outside, independent police agencies with public oversight from independent observers,” the statement reads.

In addition to the Nov. 7 death, investigators are also looking into deaths that occurred on Oct. 11 and Oct. 12.

A 35-year-old was found unresponsive in police cells on Oct. 11, while a 29-year-old man died while in custody at the Victoria Hospital on Oct. 12.

The Prince Albert Grand Council has called for an open and transparent investigation into the deaths. PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte said released a statement about those two deaths shortly afterwards, saying he understood police dealt with vulnerable people who often have addictions, but added that they have a responsibility to keep those people safe.

“The PAPS should not be in the business of locking up individuals who have underlying medical conditions if they are not professionally equipped to do so,” Hardlotte’s statement read. “Anything short of having a proper medical staff and equipment to make sure prisoners are safe is unacceptable.”