Two Indigenous organizations are calling for immediate intervention with the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) following three recent in-custody deaths.
The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations (FSIN) and the Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) are pressing the Saskatchewan Police Commission and Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Minister Christine Tell to address the growing public concerns occurring within PAPS.
“Our First Nations leadership is deeply concerned for the safety of our vulnerable people. These in-custody deaths have raised serious concerns regarding the competence of the Prince Albert Police Service and their ability to serve the broader community in general,” stated FSIN Vice Chief Dutch Lerat in a media release.
“Equally concerning is the lack of transparency and public accountability. The police service is not being open about these incidents and the victims’ families and communities deserve answers.”
On Nov. 7, 2021, a 33-year-old man was located unresponsive in his cell by Prince Albert police after he was arrested on outstanding warrants without incident. The man’s death is being investigated as an in-custody death.
“Each is a tragedy for our community and a devastating loss for families who have lost loved ones,” according to the PAPS statement issued on Nov. 10.
“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 first incident PAPS is investigating is the death of a 29-year-old man. During the early hours of Oct. 5, police were called to the Victoria Hospital for a disturbance report. PAPS indicated the man went into medical distress and later died in hospital on Oct. 12.
The second death involved a 35-year-old man who was arrested on Oct. 8. This case is being investigated by the Saskatchewan RCMP.
“This latest loss of life is very troubling since we raised these concerns just over a week ago. It is clear that recommendations from past public inquests have not been taking seriously by neither the PAPS nor the SHA,” stated PAGC Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte.
“We will not wait two years or more for more recommendations from yet another public inquiry. As we can see, time is not on our side — drastic changes need to happen now.”
In a statement to Global Regina, Minister Tell said she has engaged in discussions with the Saskatchewan Police Commission about the recent in-custody deaths.
“I understand the Commission will be conducting a review of policies and standards related to the care of people in custody,” stated Minister Tell.
“The goal of this review will be to ensure Saskatchewan police services maintain and follow best practices when they are required to hold people in custody.”