injusticebusters logo

The Stockholm syndrome?

SP Front Page

Nov. 18: Gormley had Ron Sterling on for a full hour. Geoff Dufour was with him. There was general bashing of Justice Minister Quennell for releasing details of the settlement. Ron continued his gushing gratitude to Dufour. Halfway through the show, Pam Shetterley phoned in to gush her thanks to Borden and Holgate, claiming they had put money out of their own pockets etc. etc.

As I recall it was Richard Klassen's father-in-law who ponied up most of the money for the Klassen/Kvello civil claim and as far as I know, not one of them have paid him back a single cent.

Any time a lawyer tells you he/she is "out of pocket" you can be certain that whatever they have put out, they will claw back at least ten fold.

Why does John Gormley want to maintain the secrets of Saskatchewan lawyers?
-- Sheila Steele


Policing scandal was avoidable

When a big public scandal hits hard -- whether in politics, business or show biz -- and things are spinning out of control, doing nothing is generally not an option.

It is time that someone stepped up to save Saskatoon's police force. And it will take leadership, the likes of which we have not seen yet.

The police scandal continues to spiral downward, threatening to take with it public confidence, morale of rank and file officers, the future of police Chief Russell Sabo and the reputation of Mayor Don Atchison.

And the truly confusing part is that much of this scandal arose in the past 17 days -- all attributable to people who should know better.

Nearly every problem now being debated -- including whether a special group should be brought in to wind up and reconstitute the police service -- was completely avoidable.

On Oct. 26, the Stonechild Commission of Inquiry issued its report into the 1990 freezing death of 17-year-old Neil Stonechild.

The presiding judge, Queen's Bench Justice David Wright, spent more than $2M investigating the case, hearing witnesses during 43 days of testimony. Wright did not blame anyone for Stonechild's death but did conclude that two city police officers had Stonechild in their car and that when the boy's frozen body was found four days later, his injuries were consistent with handcuffs.

Lawyers and participants in the inquiry knew in advance, when Wright issued "notices of adverse finding," that his conclusions were going to name names. Everyone had time to get ready and get the response right.

Within minutes of the release of Wright's report, the head of the police union, Stan Goertzen, came out strongly opposed to the judge's key findings. Goertzen even engaged in a heated public exchange with a reporter he accused of reporting lies.

Within hours, Chief Sabo accepted the inquiry's findings and recommendations, apologized and promised to move forward. He also suspended the two officers with pay pending a discreditable conduct hearing.

The police commission -- effectively the police department's board of directors -- is chaired by the mayor, who also accepted the findings of the inquiry and extended condolences to the Stonechild family.

But then, just four days after the report, Sabo confided to a cops' meeting that he believed "in my heart" that the two officers had no involvement in Stonechild's disappearance.

Besides contradicting his initial response -- and lessening public faith in the police department -- this disclosure of the chief's personal opinion hampers him from conducting a disciplinary hearing that appears unbiased.

Instead of recusing himself, the chief went ahead and conducted the officers' hearing anyway. And the mayor and police commission did nothing to stop him.

At the same time, 100 police officers decided to hold a silent protest in the hallway outside the hearing room.

And, to add insult to the community that pays their salaries, 200 cops conducted an unnecessary and provocative "unanimous vote of confidence" in support of the two officers and blithely dismissed the judicial inquiry as merely an opinion.

Then the mayor -- who has also been talking to cops more than he should have -- admitted that he had not read the inquiry report, when the police commission had already been carefully examining the report for several days.

Everyone involved in this -- even the police union which has repeatedly shown that it is pretty well beyond redemption -- had an opportunity to do things right. They could have managed this case properly but they didn't do it.

Once the apologies were over, the first issue should have been restoring public confidence in the police. This includes distancing today's young professional and dedicated men and women in uniform from certain sins of the past which they had no part in.

The approach for everyone -- from individual cops to the police chief, the mayor and police commission members -- should have been to take a deep breath and then focus on important outcomes like restoring confidence, learning the lessons of history, dealing constructively with race issues, putting the past behind us and moving ahead.

The language -- or messaging -- should have been simply "the inquiry report is complex, it requires careful analysis, we'll deal with the issues it raises and the chief will have to examine the full range of options under the law with respect to the two officers."

Strategically, everyone should have stayed on message, kept returning to it, avoiding speculation or getting drawn into traps and then shutting the hell up.

Instead of doing this, the entire cast of characters -- police union agitators, the mayor, the police chief and dozens of rank-and-file officers -- have blown it.

They've done and said unnecessary, harmful and just plain dumb things. Now they -- and all of us -- are paying for it.

It is easy to say "a pox on all their houses" because, really, there should be a pox on the houses of all these people. They have let us down that terribly.

But the reputation of our city and the futures of many bright young police officers are too important to walk away from now. They deserve our support.

But we deserve leadership. Who will step up to lead? Who, indeed?