Sask. police chiefs welcome independent oversight body
Saskatchewan police chiefs say the creation of an independent civilian-led oversight unit is welcome.
The province's Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) was officially operational as of Jan. 1, 2023, but has opened files on every police-related serious incident as of April 1, 2022.
Saskatchewan is one of the last provinces to establish independent civilian police oversight.
SIRT has the authority to launch investigations into incidents involving police, such as police shootings, that result in serious injury or death. It can also investigate allegations of sexual assault or domestic violence involving officers.
Moose Jaw Police Chief Rick Bourassa, who is president of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police (SACP), said SIRT has been a goal of chiefs for a long time.
"All the chiefs of the province are very pleased. We had been asking for this independent body for quite some time and have worked very closely with the province on its implementation."
Prior to the establishment of SIRT, serious incidents would be investigated by a police force from a different city, with the government providing an independent observer to oversee the case.
"The principle of police investigating the police has always been a bit problematic and it doesn't have the appearance of objectivity and independence, as it should," Bourassa said. "This independent body fits the principle that not only in policing but also across the broader community, people want to know that police are being overseen properly and independently."
Independent investigative units in Alberta and B.C. have called for increased funding in recent months due to heavy caseloads.
Bourassa said that will be on the radar of the SACP.
"We will continue to work with the province to inform those discussions as to if there is a need for more resources, we will certainly be happy to engage in those discussions."
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said his police service is "really excited" to see SIRT start up.
"We think this is a real positive step forward in terms of oversight for policing in the province. Chiefs have been asking for this sort of oversight, especially those serious incidents where someone is either injured or dies while in police custody."
Bray said he recognizes the public desire for an independent investigative team.
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