The number of complaint files opened, made against police services in Saskatchewan and brought forward to the province’s Public Complaints Commission, has increased by about 33 per cent in the 2020-21 fiscal year from a year ago.
From April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021, there were 219 complaint files opened compared to 166 files from April 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020, outlined in PCC’s latest annual report.
Of the 219 files opened, some held multiple complaints and findings, bringing the total of complaints to 246 in 2020-21.
Saskatoon had the most complaints at 102 while Regina was second on the list with 82.
“COVID-19 has caused immense hardship for the entire province. The added stress caused by public health concerns has been sustained for a lengthy period of time and all persons, including the police, have been affected,” it read in PCC’s report.
“The PCC has noted a significant number of complaints that can be directly linked to various aspects of the pandemic, such as confrontations between police and those opposed to mask-wearing requirements or other public health measures.”
Of the 246 complaints in 2020-21, three were substantiated and 12 were unsubstantiated. Seventy-eight have been considered to be unfounded, 27 have been withdrawn while 89 have not yet been completed.
“The PCC has raised concerns in the past about the inappropriate exercise of police powers and some of these concerns persist,” the report read.
“There is a rising concern about a small number of police officers who receive multiple complaints, often about the abuse of their authority, and what appears to be a lack of serious consequences for the repetition of such behaviours.”
It said, “the increased use of police car cameras, video recordings inside police buildings, the use of social media by on-duty officers, and the increasing use of body-worn cameras have all been helpful in PCC investigations, and use of these resources continues to be of great interest.”
On April 12, legislation was introduced to create a civilian-led independent Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT).
Once established, SIRT will be tasked with investigating serious incidents involving police officers. It’s something the PCC is looking forward to implementing.
The PCC investigates complaints from municipal police services, rural municipality police services, the Community Safety Officer Program (CSOP) and Safer Communities and Neighbourhoods.