Sask. releases 45 recommendations after review of Prince Albert Police Service

Members of the Prince Albert Police Service watch during the opening of the new downtown station in 2019. -- Herald file photo

The provincial government has released 45 recommendations following an independent review of the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS).

The recommendations revolve around a number of factors, such as having a strategic plan, refreshing its discipline policy and defining the duties of members and the board.

The inquiry “strongly recommended” that the Board of Police Commissioners (PABPC) look into external candidates for the next chief. The position should be more focused on administrative, interpersonal and leadership duties, reads the recommendation.

Former Chief Jon Bergen stepped down in May after a review of police response to events leading to the death of a 13-month-old boy. Bergen said he received personal attacks following his leadership decisions after the call, and felt his decisions moving forward to discipline or investigate members could be seen as biased.

Patrick Nogier with the Saskatoon Police Service stepped in as interim chief after Bergen’s departure.

According to the report, Bergen had never received an annual assessment, which is required by commission policy.

Another recommendation is for the Criminal Investigation Division to address crimes other than homicides. This should be implemented immediately, according to the inquiry.

“A dedicated four-person detective team to assist patrol division would have an immediate positive impact on workload, crime resolution and public safety,” reads the recommendation.

The inquiry also recommended the police service immediately include more non-urgent calls in its online reporting to reduce call volume on the patrol division. This includes to local media, the city and on its website.

In a news release, Nogier said the police service will continuously work to improve practices and comply with industry standards.

“We are fully aware that the recommendations will have a significant impact on our operations and financial management. However, we are steadfast in our determination to rise to the challenge and implement change effectively and efficiently,” he said.

Nogier added that working with its stakeholders, such as the union, is crucial to seeing improvement.

Nolan Carter is president of the Prince Albert Police Association, the union representing police members.

“We feel that the recommendations that are finally out from the ministry are a way to move forward in a lengthy process that has not been easy for any of our members,” said Carter in a prepared statement.

He added that Nogier has already addressed some of the issues raised, while others are currently being discussed.

“Although budget will restrict certain recommendations, the hope from the association is that the City of Prince Albert, the police board, and the ministry will step up and continue to acknowledge and support not only the Prince Albert Police Service, but in turn, the city itself.”

The Board of Police Commissioners also released a statement responding to the recommendations.

“The board has reaffirmed its commitment to make the changes that need to occur, and has already begun, and in some cases completed, meaningful steps toward implementing recommendations,” said Chair Janet Carriere.

The Herald requested interviews with Nogier, the union and the board, but was sent back written statements instead.

Improving relationships with union, board

Several recommendations revolve around improving relationships between the executive members and the board.

One recommendation noted “serious issues within the PAPS regarding discipline, grievances, relationships with senior management, the PABPC, and overall organizational impairment.”

This particular recommendation said the union should have a full-time president with a “willingness to build relationships.”

The following recommendation is for senior executive and the union to meet every two months. An agenda should be distributed at least a week prior, and formal minutes should be distributed to members “for transparency and building trust.”

The union and the board should also have a working relationship, states the inquiry, with meetings bi-annually.

The report also addressed the importance of keeping suspended members informed of their duty status, rights and responsibilities, and giving them wellness support while off-duty.

“Despite their experience and years of service, the suspension of a police officer from duty is a difficult and emotionally impactful situation for the individual, co-workers, friends, and family, as well as the police service,” it said.

One recommendation says the mayor should not be included in the Board of Police Commissioners “due to the perception of political influence in policing.”

Currently, the board consists of a citizen president, the mayor as vice-president, two city councilors and two other citizen members.

The need for strategic plans

The inquiry recommended the police service and the board immediately implement strategic plans that are refreshed annually.

The plans would outline the visions and goals of the police service and the board, both long-term and short-term.

The police service’s strategic plan should be overseen by the board to ensure its goals are being met in a timely manner, according to the inquiry.

One recommendation states that its provincial policy for police boards and commissions to have a separate strategic plan. This is necessary to outline broader priorities for the community and police engagement.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Corrections and Policing ordered the inquiry in November. The province appointed Rod Knecht to conduct the review, former chief of the Edmonton Police Service.

“Government is working with the Board of Police Commissioners, the interim chief, and the Prince Albert Police Association to implement these recommendations and move forward so the people of Prince Albert can be confident in the service’s ability to keep them and their community safe,” said minister Christine Tell in a news release.

The ministry ordered the inquiry following three in-custody deaths within three weeks in the fall of 2021.

Last week, an officer was criminally charged with negligence causing death and failure to provide the necessities of life in relation to one of these incidents.