Civilian police oversight in Regina could expand this week

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WATCH: The city of Regina is set to consider changes to the way police are governed. – Sep 27, 2020

Depending on the outcome of a city council vote this week, the civilian presence on the Regina Board of Police Commissioners could expand.

A city administration report being presented to council is recommending the number of civilian members required to be on the board be expanded from two to four.

The potential change already has support from one of the current civilian commissioners, Jada Yee.

“I’ve been on the board for about two years now. It has been talked about. But I think that with the recent events going on in the world, now is the perfect opportunity to put that into motion,” Yee said Saturday.

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Governed by The Police Act, Regina’s Board of Police Commissioners is responsible for approving the RPS budget, developing strategic goals and objectives and negotiating collective bargaining agreements.

The board’s current mandate requires at least one of its two civilian members to be of Indigenous descent.

Yee said he thinks expansion would allow the board to further reflect Regina’s diversity.

“You need to have voices and experiences that represent Regina. It shouldn’t be just a certain people having input into the board. The more diverse any board, having Indigenous, non-Indigenous, new immigrants, females, elders and young people, when you have such a broad band of experiences it benefits anything,” he said.

Speaking to Global News Sunday, Regina police Chief Evan Bray was quick to throw his support behind the expansion.

“Knowing that our police service goes to great lengths to be reflective of our community, having more community representatives on our board will be a really positive thing. It’s going to give us more community involvement, and more outreach in the community, and ultimately that will help shape our police service in the years to come.”

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The oversight of the Board of Police Commissioners does, however, have its limitations.

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It isn’t, for instance, involved in any conduct investigations.

In June, the government of Saskatchewan took steps to give the Public Complaints Commission the power to appoint independent investigators in cases of in-custody death or injury.

Under Saskatchewan’s previous system, Investigation Observers were appointed by the deputy minister of justice and were always members of a Saskatchewan police service, RCMP detachment, or retired police officer.

In June the Regina Board of Police Commissioners threw their support behind the creation of a completely civilian-led serious incident response team, the likes of which are already seen in most provinces, but so far the province has stopped short of moving forward with that idea.

Yee, meanwhile, said he thinks police services in Saskatchewan would benefit from more civilian oversight “at every level”, but declined to comment on what he thinks independent conduct investigation should look like in Saskatchewan.

Bray also said he would also support the creation of a serious incident response team.

“Any time you have something independent of police, and is led by a civilian body, and can do an investigation and report back to the public in a transparent manner, I think that instills confidence in the public for their police service. I know the province has made a significant step in that direction in the past couple of months. And, in speaking with Minister Morgan, he’s got more planned in the future and I look forward to speaking with the provincial government on that.”

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The Ministry of Justice could not be reached for comment Sunday.

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The administration report says expanding the board would have little impact on city finances.

Other options presented in the report include expanding civilian presence by more members than two, or increasing membership and allowing the new members to be appointed by the provincial government.

There is no limit to the size of the board.

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