Police policing police: Saskatchewan explores civilian oversight options

REGINA — The Saskatchewan government is looking at how other provinces handle police oversight after years of being criticized for police policing police.

It’s one of the only provinces without an independent civilian-led agency that investigates police actions that result in injury or death.

It’s common for another local police agency to review serious events such as shootings.

The Regina Police Service is investigating a shooting on Tuesday in which an RCMP corporal and one suspect were injured.

Moose Jaw Police stepped in after a shooting in August involving a Mountie left one man dead on the Fishing Lake First Nation, about 230 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

Saskatchewan’s Ministry of Justice says police oversight looks different everywhere and, in cases where death or serious injury occur, the province assigns an independent observer to review the investigation and report to the ministry.

“I’m not saying that one police force investigating another police force will always be biased, but maybe biased … is the question or the perception” said Felix Cacchione, director of the Serious Incident Response Team in Nova Scotia, which has also handled cases from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

The retired judge said he’s spoken to someone from Saskatchewan about the issue.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement Wednesday that the province has independent police oversight bodies such as municipal police boards and the Public Complaints Commission which look into complaints against officers and possible criminal conduct.

“The ministry also understands the need for further transparency, accountability, and ensuring public confidence in police services, specifically in areas that concern serious incidents involving police,” the statement reads.

“The ministry is reviewing civilian oversight bodies in other Canadian jurisdictions, and what improvements can be made.”

It says there is no timeline for potential changes.

Cacchione believes civilian oversight is important because it dispels common perceptions that police protect their own, which cause the public to question their investigations.

(Canadian Press)

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