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Saskatchewan Highway Patrol chief fired for buying unauthorized weapons

Along with traffic violations, Saskatchewan Highway Patrol officers will respond to 911 calls, collisions, and impaired drivers. Saskatchewan Government / Supplied

The former chief of Saskatchewan’s Highway Patrol was fired last year after he bought unauthorized weapons and equipment for first responders including silencers, rifles and ammunition, says the minister of highways.

“He was expressly told not to purchase a shotgun and he did,” said Greg Ottenbreit, minister of highways. “A blatant disregard for authority.”

The auditor’s report brought the issue to public on Tuesday, but on Friday the government confirmed the fired employee was former chief Robin Litzenberger.

The government declined to comment further as the issue is before the courts in relation to a civil – not criminal – matter.

Read more: Saskatchewan auditor questions equipment purchases made by highway patrol

Public accounts show Litzenberger served as the Highway Patrol’s chief since its inception in July of 2018. In 2020, Andy Landers took over the position according to his LinkedIn account.

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Prior to being chief, Litzenberger was the executive director of planning and operations and public safety for the Global Transportation Hub, then later the director of commercial vehicle enforcement within the ministry.

When his role as director transitioned into chief, he was given a $30,000 raise, according to public accounts, making him the fifth highest-paid employee within the ministry bringing in over $140,000 annually.

Auditor’s investigation

In early 2019-2020, the Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure opened up an investigation following complaints about the Highway Patrol’s purchasing.

A third-party consultant led the investigation, which resulted in the auditor doing further work.

During this time the chief was placed on administrative leave, but was eventually fired without severance last year following the results of the investigation.

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The auditor found equipment that is restricted under the Municipal Police Equipment Regulations was purchased. This includes three 9-mm pistols, two fully automatic rifles, one AR-10 carbine and 12 suppressors (commonly known as silencers).

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Other questionable purchases included drug test kits, a drone and a high-power rifle scope.

The Ministry did not authorize the need for these types of firearms and weapons given the Highway Patrol serve as first responders in emergency situations.

“We were very concerned it was improper equipment, that’s why it was never in the field and never utilized. It was locked up,” Ottenbreit said.

Around $140,000 was spent on improper equipment, which will be liquidated to other law agencies in the future.

Read more: Saskatchewan looking to equip highway officers with heavy body armour

The investigation also found the chief and some employees were dividing individual purchases into several transactions to stay within the $10,000 spending limit, or to avoid having to use competitive purchasing methods which requires obtaining three written quotes when purchasing exceeds $2,500.

Despite the former chief getting terminated, Ottenbreit says he is confident in the leadership Highway Patrol currently has.

“Morale is very good, training is very good and we do have, and will have a very effective enforcement arm of commercial vehicle enforcement, and well-equipped to be a support of our policing in rural areas, RCMP and Conservation Officers,” Ottenbreit said.

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Saskatchewan Highway Patrol officers are part of the province’s protection and response team. They ain in the reduction of rural crime. They’re considered first responders, and they turn over investigations to police services or RCMP.

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