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Prince Albert, Sask. police officers vote non-confidence in Chief Bergen

The Prince Albert Police Association is calling for Chief Jon Bergen to resign or be removed after 95 per cent of officers voted non-confidence in his leadership. Prince Albert Police Service

The head of the Prince Albert Police Association says morale is declining and is calling for meaningful dialogue with the city’s police commissioners over the situation.

Sgt. Josh Peterson said an overwhelming majority of officers — 95 per cent — recently voted non-confidence in the leadership of Chief Jon Bergen.

“So really, I think the only option is for the chief to either resign or be removed,” Peterson told Global News.

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It’s the second time in two years the association has voted non-confidence in their chief.

“Our members held a vote in June 2020 and the result was that 73 per cent of our members voted non-confidence,” Peterson said.

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Now, Peterson is left wondering what more needs to be done for the board of police commissioners to step in.

“We reached out at that time to the board of police commissioners — the public’s board — and asked them to help us resolve these issues,” he said.

“They ignored us then, too and the result is that the number is now 95 per cent.”

While the association and the board are meeting on March 14, Peterson is going public as he doesn’t believe the board is taking them seriously.

“The police board, they’re in place to represent the community and to be an advocate for the community. And I don’t think the community truly understands what we’re dealing with here,” he said

“And we’re just letting the public know how bad it is within the walls of the police service.”

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The force has come under scrutiny in the past month after the death of a 13-month-old boy.

Tanner Brass was allegedly killed by his father hours after police attended the house on a domestic disturbance call. The two officers involved in the initial call have been suspended with pay.

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The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations and the Prince Albert Grand Council have called for Bergen to resign or be fired.

Both groups have also asked the Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety to intervene with the police force.

Peterson would welcome an audit.

“One of our suggestions, when we went to the board, was an audit a couple of years ago, but they didn’t seem too supportive of that,” he said.

“Now I understand there might be a cost to that, but we welcome an audit because if there’s a way that we could police more efficiently, absolutely we would love that.”

He said they want to start healing as a police service and community.

“Unfortunately, it appears that process can’t begin with Chief Jon Bergen.”

Police board responds to union exec, expresses disappointment

The Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners released a statement on Friday evening saying they were disappointed in the action of the Prince Albert Police Association Executive.

“It is an understatement to say that the board as a whole is disappointed in (Peterson’s) approach and comments,”  said Board Chair Darcy Sander.

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Sander is an education administrator and former police officer.

“Our police service and the work it does relies on standards of professionalism and good judgment that we are concerned are not demonstrated by (Peterson) or his executive in this manner of conducting themselves,” Sander added.

The Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners is made up of four appointed volunteer community leaders and three members of city council.

It is responsible “to ensure diversity‐based community oversight and to provide governance on policing issues in Prince Albert.”

Bergen reports directly to the board. In their statement, the board added under legislation members of the police are responsible to Bergen in the performance of their policing duties.

The board claims Peterson sent an email on Monday “giving the board an ultimatum” and said his executive team would go to the media on Friday saying members were not confident in Bergen.

The board says they were given until Friday to “come up with a solution.”

Sheryl Kimbley, a long-serving member of the board, said though all members are volunteers who have other jobs, they offered to meet with the executive as early as March 14.

“We asked them to outline their concerns for us. They never got back to us,” Kimbley said.

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Global News has reached out to Peterson for a response to the board’s claims but did not receive one before publication.

The board’s statement further added they are “very engaged” and “well-informed” on policing issues in the city.

“We  strongly  support  Chief  Bergen’s  initiatives  to  insist  on  policing  standards  and member  accountability  in  our  Service,” board member Janet Carriere said.

Carriere added the board learned this week from the Public Complaints Commission that five members’ standards and professionalism “are currently under scrutiny of independent agencies.”

“We understand that is uncomfortable for members until due process completes itself.  But it is certainly no time for tactics of deflection or distraction,” Carriere added.

Further, Sander said the union executive has not responded to the board’s request to identify their concerns.

“The recent issue reported to us that the  executive  discussed  with  Chief  Bergen  was  a  criticism  in  how  he  sent  a  matter  of  public concern  out  to  independent  investigation.  The  issues  raised  in  their  media  release  were different,” Sander said.

Click to play video: 'Indigenous leaders call for Prince Albert police firings, inquest after infant’s death'
Indigenous leaders call for Prince Albert police firings, inquest after infant’s death

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