injusticebusters logo

One casualty in all of this is Mayor Jim Maddin. Remember when he fired Dave Scott in July, 2001? Scott has continued to play a poisonous and divisive role in Saskatoon city politics.

Richard Klassen settles with Dueck: As of May 16, we still have not heard the results of the independant investigation into the crimes committed by Dueck and revealed at the Klassen-Kvello civil trial. In December, we learned there had been no independent investigation but a whitewash in Saskatchewan, ignoring Dueck's perjury and obstruction of justice.

Part of our agenda, along with seeking justice for those falsely accused in the Klassen/Kvello case has been to bring the Saskatoon Police Service to account for having protected and promoted Brian Dueck, the only police investigator in the case. Mayor Jim Maddin was elected in 2000 and he had an uphill battle to fulfill his promise of cleaning up the police. This is part of what has happened…

How Sabo finessed the saving of Superintendent Brian Dueck from accountability

Police Chief Russell Sabo, 2004

Sabo clarifies controversial comments

Chief Russell Sabo

Police Chief Russell Sabo has broken his silence on comments he made to officers on parade on Oct. 30.

Officers report Sabo told them that he doesn't believe constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger are responsible for Stonechild's death. He confirmed Tuesday to the board of police commissioners that he made the comments, but said they were in a broader context.

On Friday, Sabo publicly explained the comments for the first time.

"I did make a remark in response to a question that I did not have the belief that Const. Hartwig and Const. Senger did it," Sabo told a police station news conference Friday. " 'It' of course meaning leaving Neil Stonechild in a field in the middle of the night. Indeed, Mr. (Justice David) Wright himself did not make that conclusion. My reply was solely in the context of my personal experience in my dealings with Const. Hartwig and Const. Senger."

Sabo said he also told officers that it was his responsibility to conduct a review under the Saskatchewan Police Act and assess their conduct based on objective evidence.

"So at the parade, I said nothing that was inconsistent with the findings in the report of Mr. Justice Wright, and nothing that prejudged my review of the evidence."

City police association president Const. Stan Goertzen said he'll wait for the two constables' appeal hearings to say if he agrees with Sabo's explanation of his comments.

"We're real clear on some things," Goertzen said.

Justice Minister Frank Quennell also refused to address Sabo's explanation of his comments.

"The conduct of the chief of police is the responsibility of the Saskatoon police commission."

Sabo reiterated that he accepts the inquiry report's findings and recommendations.

Sabo vows to stay on job despite heat

Police Chief Russell Sabo says he plans to stay on as Saskatoon's top cop indefinitely, as he prepares to make arguably the toughest decision of his three years with the service.

"I have a contract and I'm going to live up to that contract and do the best job I can for the citizens of Saskatoon," he said in an interview. "I have no plans of submitting my resignation. I like this job, I love the people of this city and I work with a great group of people in this organization that makes me proud to say I'm a member of this service."

The chief's contract expires in August 2006.

"I'm actually hoping at some point that I'll be able to extend that contract."

Sabo is expected to announce today a decision on the futures of constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger, who are implicated in the mysterious 1990 death of teenager Neil Stonechild. Fallout from the explosive report on the Stonechild inquiry, released Oct. 26, reached into the chief's office when officers reported him suggesting days later that the constables aren't connected with Stonechild's death.

Speculation about Sabo's job became so intense that he was quizzed about his intentions during a closed-door special meeting with the board of police commissioners Tuesday.

"There's so much conjecture out there right now that it's put this thing in a whole different realm," Sabo said.

He declined to address comments he made on parade Oct. 30 or questions about the decision on the constables' future.

Sabo's three years on the force have been marked by controversy, some of which, like Stonechild's death, traces back to years before Sabo moved to Saskatoon.

"When I got offered the job to come to Saskatoon, I knew some of the challenges I would be facing," he said. "I also knew there were many, many good people in this police service who want to do the same thing that I do and that is rebuild contact with the community, regain trust with the community and demonstrate that we have people around here that really care. My experience with the public reassures me every day that this is the place I want to be."

He wouldn't say if he thinks there's more or less confidence in the force now than when he took the job of chief.

Police commission chair Mayor Don Atchison said Sabo has the full confidence of the commission and himself.

"We believe in the chief," he said. "And we believe the decision he makes is a decision that's best for the entire community and the Saskatoon Police Service. That's a pretty strong endorsement."

The board will submit a plan within weeks to respond to eight recommendations of Stonechild inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright, Atchison said.

Coun. Tiffany Paulsen, also a member of the police commission, suggests that much hangs on Sabo's decision today.

"I think the board is waiting for his decision," Paulsen said, when asked about support for Sabo. "He is the chief of police. The board has to support him until or if that changes."

Sabo confirmed to the board of police commissioners Tuesday that he made comments about Hartwig and Senger to his officers, which they interpreted as him believing the constables didn't cause Neil Stonechild's death.

But the chief suggested the officers may have misinterpreted his comments at the morning briefing, Paulsen said.

"I wanted some clarification of whether he made those comments," said Paulsen. "He indicated that the source (quoted in the StarPhoenix) wasn't verbatim, but he did make the comments."

Sabo provided the board with more context about his comments, Paulsen said, adding she couldn't go into detail.

But the chief's explanation didn't necessarily satisfy her.

"It's a big deal to me," Paulsen said. "I would have preferred he said nothing at all out of fairness to the officers and the Stonechild family."

Atchison declined comment on how Sabo explained his words to his officers, saying the force needs to move on.

Sabo met Wednesday with lawyers Jay Watson and Chris Boychuk, representing Senger and Hartwig respectively. The chief told them he was reading statements Senger had given to RCMP, which were not presented at the Stonechild inquiry, they said.

"There was nothing in these statements that showed either of these constables were engaged in any misconduct whatsoever," Boychuk said. "The case we made to the chief was the inquiry procedure was so flawed that any findings with respect to these two officers aren't credible and shouldn't be relied upon by him. He should the evidence himself and come to his own conclusion."

For example, the inquiry didn't permit the officers to call their own evidence, Boychuk said.

The police commission's two-member subcommittee dealing with the Stonechild inquiry report — Paulsen and fellow commissioner Donna Renneberg — met for the first time Wednesday.

Troubling lack of confidence

It's hard to imagine a more devastating plague to be visited on a city than the one that appears to have grabbed Saskatoon by the throat.

And one can be sure that -- even if all predictions come true and constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger are fired when they are called into the office of police Chief Russell Sabo — there are more troubles ahead.

There are more than 400 members of the police service that have sworn to serve and protect the city and the vast majority of them have taken on the job because of a real desire to make Saskatoon something better.

And to have their reputation, and that of the city, internally dragged through the mud has got to be among the most demoralizing situations one can imagine. Almost as demoralizing as watching wave after wave of our children packing their bags and leaving rather than having to explain the reputation of their home town and the way its police treat aboriginals.

What is most disturbing for most police as well as the citizens, is that this reputation for taking Natives outside the city and allowing them to freeze -- although it makes for salacious headlines around the world -- doesn't fit our reality.

Individual police officers have clearly stated to me that, at least today, there is no blue line protecting officers who would do such a thing and any officer implicated in such conduct would have nowhere within the station to hide.

They point to the ready willingness of the officer who first heard the allegation that constables Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen drove Darrell Night to a field near the Queen Elizabeth power plant on a frigid January night in 2000 to report it to his superiors.

And those officers were convicted of the crime, went through due process under the Police Act and were fired without the show of support that has been shown for Senger and Hartwig.

They argue that it would be a terrible tragedy if Hartwig and Senger were to be fired for something they didn't do. This is absolutely true, it would be a tragedy, and it is this possibility (and for anyone who waded through Justice David Wright's very well written report, a remote possibility) that makes their inevitable fate so gut-wrenching.

As Wright points out, the evidence against the two is not conclusive, and the reason it's not conclusive is that the officers in charge of finding out how Neil Stonechild came to such an early and violent end either intentionally or through neglect blew the investigation.

It is based on this shoddy police work that Hartwig and Senger are both condemned and exonerated.

And it is the long history of bad management, poor labour relations, questionable conduct and outright negligent police work within the department that makes it easy for the public to believe the worst, and difficult for the members to defend themselves even when they are doing no wrong.

Consider, for example, that many senior officers were insisting that David Milgaard — a young man who had his life ruined after sitting in prison for 22 years for a murder he had no connection with — was only exonerated because of a technicality.

That technicality was irrefutable DNA evidence, strong enough that more than two decades after the murder the evidence was enough to convict the real killer.

And consider also that this year the body of Alexandra Wiwcharuk, a young nurse murdered in 1962, had to be exhumed in a desperate attempt to use modern technology to find her killer.

In a country that prides itself on the professionalism and integrity of its police forces, it seems Saskatoon has become the national evidence that the exception proves the rule. Given the troubles evident in other jurisdictions -- from Toronto police selling drugs and targeting blacks, to Vancouver's bad fumbling of the Robert Pickton case and Edmonton's inability to stop a similar spate of murders — this city's reputation is overblown.

But it's Saskatoon that is most likely to make the national news, and it's Saskatoon that is included on the U.S. State Department's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

There are few within the department or the city that wouldn't like to see this community turn the corner on this issue. Unfortunately the leadership necessary to get us there has been lacking — on all fronts.

And it is becoming apparent that Chief Russell Sabo, like his predecessors dating back almost two decades, is also struggling to hang on to the helm.

But a police department isn't optional. Saskatoon needs a service that it can count on, and the members need an administration they can trust.

One wonders, however, where the leadership can come from to guide us out of this malaise. For too long the politics within the department has poisoned relations, and the politics outside the department have made it difficult for the Saskatoon police commission to take the decisive action necessary to clean things up.

Worse yet, turning to the provincial Justice Department is also problematic. While the Saskatoon police can bear some of the blame for the David Milgaard (right) debacle, the Justice Department also played an ignominious role — just as it did in the Robert Latimer (right) case, the Martensville investigation and the Klassen and Kvello cases.

And the sordid stories aren't over yet as we wait for more inquiries into the handling of a number of these flawed cases.

Before we ever make it past this apparent crisis in confidence in those who would be our protectors, we will need someone to step forward with solid leadership, someone who can convince all the parties involved, from community members to the justice minister, to pull together rather than continually setting upon ourselves.

Without that leadership, we will be doomed like Prometheus, who was ordered by Zeus to be chained in the Caucusus Mountains where every day his liver was eaten by an eagle, only to have it grow back overnight and have the pain repeated.

Cop would appeal firing: lawyer

The stage will be set for a sequel to the Neil Stonechild inquiry if constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger are fired or charged.

Chief Russell Sabo's options for dealing with the suspended officers include firing them outright or charging them under the Police Act.

In either case, Hartwig will appeal, said his lawyer, Aaron Fox.

An appeal would result in a public hearing before a lawyer acting as hearing officer, where Sabo would have to prove grounds for dismissal or charges, such as discreditable conduct.

That may mean calling witnesses like Stonechild's friend Jason Roy one more time, to prove Stonechild was in their cruiser.

"It would be a replay, subject to some (inquiry) evidence not being admissible and likely some additional evidence being called," Fox said.

The officers would at least initially pay their hearing costs, Fox said, with the province paying for the hearing officer and the police service responsible for its own costs. If dismissals are overturned or the charges found groundless, however, the officers' costs would be turned back to the force, based on stipulations of their collective bargaining agreement, said Const. Stan Goertzen, president of the city police association.

The Stonechild inquiry lasted 43 days spread over six months and cost more than $2 million.

Sabo's only grounds for dismissing an employee under the Police Act are unsuitability or incompetence, both of which would have to be proven, Fox said. The proceedings are similar to those of a civil trial, where the hearing officer makes a decision based on the balance of probabilities, similar to the Stonechild inquiry. Unlike the inquiry, a hearing wouldn't accept evidence such as hearsay, Fox said.

The chief was originally expected to announce a decision on the officers' future this morning but police officials say a date is now uncertain.

Sabo's other options are reinstating the officers or imposing remedial action, such as requiring the constables to take training for use of force, Fox said.

Justice Minister Frank Quennell, meanwhile, gives the leadership of the Saskatoon Police Service a vote of confidence.

"I am still confident that the Saskatoon police commission can put forward a plan of action which will be externally reviewed by the provincial commission that will lead to increased confidence by the entire community of Saskatoon in its police force," Quennell told reporters in Regina. "I think some of the discussions that have been made by some commentators about substituting a different police force are premature."

Quennell said he's relying on the Saskatoon police commission to show leadership.

"It seems like the natural first step in this case to proceed with a plan that comes from the people chosen — and there is some elected political leadership on that police commission, two councillors and the mayor," Quennell said. "They need an opportunity to demonstrate some leadership."

Mayor Don Atchison said commissioners are behind Sabo.

"The board has confidence in the chief that the decision he makes will be in the city's best interests. Whatever decision the chief makes, we're going to become a stronger community for it. Sometimes when you go through a crisis, it brings people together."

Inside the Saskatoon police station, the tension is strong enough to affect how officers approach their jobs.

"The only thing to do is work hard and be as professional as you can," said one officer, on condition of anonymity. "Some of the really junior people . . . are afraid to get involved in anything heavy because they're afraid someone will come down on them."

"It's a very difficult time for everybody," said a second officer. "An awful lot of work has gone into improving relations with aboriginal people. Those (officers) who work in the schools and with aboriginal people, they're fearing a backlash."

Atchison said the public should respect the work police are doing under difficult circumstances.

Time to bring in the RCMP

Just the thought of it seems like an impossibility. The challenges would be daunting, the practicalities overwhelming.

Somehow, though, the suggestion keeps coming up. The idea of rolling up the Saskatoon Police Service and bringing in some kind of replacement force is heard with increasing frequency.

The idea now circulating within Saskatoon and beyond is that the local force is irredeemable; it is so dysfunctional that an entirely new approach to policing in Saskatoon is required.

Former mayor and police commission member Jim Maddin has said this idea occurred to him when he was still in office, but found that there would have to be a near breakdown in the force's ability to operate before such a thing could even be considered.

Still, it's an idea that also appeals to University of Saskatchewan business ethics Prof. Colin Boyd, who made the same suggestion in the pages of the StarPhoenix on Monday.

The logistics of such a thing seem preposterous. How could you simply fire more than 300 officers and replace them with some other force? Surely the RCMP doesn't have sufficient manpower to even consider such a thing.

Even if it did, what would it cost? The severance costs alone would be astronomical. Because of the obvious problems, no one within the police commission or the city administration even wants to raise the issue.

So far, Mayor Don Atchison remains non-committal about the key findings of the Wright report into Neil Stonechild's death, which is the flashpoint for reconsideration of the police force's role in public security.

However, there are good reasons to believe some other policing model might make sense for Saskatoon.

There have been a series of events that show the Saskatoon police force has deep-seated problems that include not only the Munson and Hatchen affair and the Stonechild incident, but the admission of various officers that dumping Natives is not unknown within the service.

Also, the police union apparently refuses to accept the word of a well-respected judge in the Stonechild affair. The reason Justice David Wright was chosen to lead the inquiry is because he has a reputation for being a careful judge. After weighing the testimony, he found that Stonechild was in police custody on the night he died, and that marks on his face were likely caused by handcuffs.

These findings have been rejected by the police union. To have 200 officers cast a vote to the effect that Wright's findings of fact represent no more than an opinion sends a very strong message that rank and file police officers have no respect for outside views of their performance.

A third reason for considering another policing model is that we know there is an institutional reluctance to look outside for help. When Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner were found frozen to death in the southeast industrial area of the city, the first instinct of then-police chief Dave Scott was to have his own officers investigate the incident. The provincial Justice Department intervened to say that was not acceptable and the RCMP was brought in.

It was they who reopened the Stonechild investigation and it was their findings that eventually led to the Wright inquiry. Sources say that the RCMP has since informed the provincial Justice Department on more than one occasion that the Saskatoon police force is a deeply troubled organization.

We now have another situation where the chief obviously does not enjoy the confidence of his department. If he cannot impose order and convince the troops that there is some need for change, then presumably someone else is going to have to do it.

The question is who?

The provincial government has said it intends to give the police service an opportunity to make the kinds of institutional change that Wright has recommended. Given that police Chief Russell Sabo has his own doubts about Wright's findings, the chances for change from within seem increasingly unlikely. Consequently, there remains a large role for the province in the Saskatoon police saga.

If he chose to, Justice Minister Frank Quennell could appoint an outside expert on policing to review the operations of the Saskatoon police and make recommendations on what it would take to fix the force. Or he could ask the RCMP itself to examine the city police in a more detailed way.

If the findings were that the problems cannot be fixed without a fresh start, then the city and the province would at least have a guide to follow.

The solution need not be the RCMP moving in and taking over from the city police entirely. Conceivably, the RCMP could take over management of the existing force at the senior levels and begin to dismantle the so-called "blue wall" that seems to rule the service at the moment. The province could pass whatever enabling legislation might be required.

The next clue on whether any of this makes sense will reveal itself Wednesday, when Sabo is expected to say what he intends to do with constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger.

If he announces they have resigned with severance, it will be a sign that Sabo has sufficient influence to begin to resuscitate the reputation of the force.

If he says they are staying on, it will be a sign to the public that the inmates truly are running the asylum.

Sabo seeks to beef up city police force

The long arm of the law may extend its reach this summer under Chief Russell Sabo's plan to beef up policing on busy nights, but first Saskatoon's police association must give its consent.

Sabo wants to put four more patrol cars, including eight officers, on the street between 5 p.m. and 3 a.m., Wednesday through Saturday nights. To do it as the force waits to hire and train 20 new constables, Sabo wants to temporarily transfer three constables from traffic duties, one from the criminal investigations division, two from work in schools and two from community duties to patrol, starting July 1.

"That is adding a significant number of vehicles to a night shift," Sabo said, adding he hopes the change results in faster response times. "We want to make sure they're out there when we need them."

Police typically handle more alcohol-related incidents during those hours, ranging from assaults to thefts, Sabo said.

New recruits would replace the transferred officers on patrol early in 2005.

The additional policing at night is a non-starter without the approval of the city police association. Sabo will ask it to allow patrol officers to work 10-hour shifts, rather than 12-hour shifts that have been negotiated through collective bargaining.

Association president Const. Stan Goertzen said he's willing to listen to the proposal when formal contract talks start today, even though he has serious concerns.

The switch to a 10-hour shift would make it harder for the force to recruit, since officers prefer working fewer, but longer, days, he said. Saskatoon police officers began working 12-hour shifts, instead of eight, in 1983.

Sabo already has flexibility to put more officers on the street built into the contract without changing the length of shifts, Goertzen said.

The association is also concerned about shortchanging other areas of policing to shore up the night shift until new recruits arrive.

Sabo acknowledges moving officers will have repercussions.

"Taking three out of traffic will definitely have an effect on the amount of enforcement we can do, particularly how we respond to hit and runs." Sabo concedes. "It will still get done, just take a little longer."

More is riding on these contract talks than wages and hours, said Mayor Don Atchison, who supported a civic tax increase of almost four per cent, linked to a police budget increase.

"(City council) made it perfectly clear that they expect to see more officers out there. If they don't get more out there, that makes an argument that the money for it won't necessarily be there next year."

The board of police commissioners also supports extra patrols on busy nights, Atchison said.

During summer, school liaison officers typically take holidays or assume other duties, anyway, Sabo said.

The force hasn't decided where to deploy the additional patrol officers and is waiting for an audit on which areas most calls come from, Sabo said.

There would be minimal cost to transferring the officers, although the force will have to pay additional shift premiums for the late hours.

Has the clean-up begun? We remain hopeful but cautious

As the report below states, complaints have been filed against Dueck going backto 1993. Injusticebusters has kept track of how Dueck has been rewarded since he first shopped this case to Prosecutor Matthew Miazga — who took it to trial. While Chief Scott was promoting Dueck, first from corporal to sergeant, then to superintendent, we were continually raising the issue. Deptury Chief Dan Wiks was also a loyal Dueck supporter/promoter. He is now on leave as Saskatoon police conduct an internal investigation regarding lies he told the media which he admitted to during the Stonechild inquiry.

Police chief requests Klassen trial documents:
Information concerns police conduct

Saskatoon police Chief Russell Sabo has asked the Justice Department for copies of documents entered at the Klassen trial as a result of a completed, independent investigation of Supt. Brian Dueck.

The firm of Priel Stevenson Hood & Thornton, which submitted a report on its investigation to Sabo within the last two weeks, focused on any wrongdoing by Dueck under the Police Act. It also looked into the potential of wrongdoing under other statutes, such as the Criminal Code.

The documents, along with the legal firm's recommendations, will help Sabo determine if the force should seek an outside police agency to conduct a full criminal investigation of Dueck, the chief said.

"We're going to examine whether or not there was evidence called that would support or deny any wrongdoing," Sabo said.

Late last year, Richard Klassen and 11 other plaintiffs successfully sued Dueck, therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown prosecutor Matt Miazga for malicious prosecution.

Klassen and members of his family had been falsely accused of sexually abusing three foster children in the early 1990s. Their lawsuit sought damages of more than $10 million. A damages trial is set for September.

Sabo wouldn't say what type of documents he wants to examine. He did say he and the legal firm are also concerned about comments Justice George Baynton made about Dueck during the trial.

Richard Klassen suspects the evidence concerns false pretenses Dueck may have used to obtain three search warrants in connection with the prosecution.

"He was really the kingpin, the beginning of the malicious prosecution that ended in 1993," Klassen said in an interview.

Dueck couldn't be reached for comment. Lawyer David Gerrand, who represented Dueck in the trial, said he isn't in a position to comment on the latest development.

The legal firm's recommendations concerning any wrongdoing covered by the Police Act will stay in abeyance pending consideration of any criminal investigation, Sabo said. The act itemizes forms of police misconduct and steps a force can take to discipline an officer, such as a suspension.

Klassen first filed complaints about Dueck in 1993, but the police service disregarded them, he said. This time, he has more faith police are diligently looking into the officer's conduct.

"I hope I'm not being lied to and I don't think I am," he said. "I feel a whitewash, at this time, after all the evidence and a hard-hitting judgment, is almost impossible."

Dueck remains on indefinite medical leave, dealing with stress, according to Mayor Don Atchison.

The chief said he hopes to provide more definitive answers within three weeks. Sabo declined to reveal the cost of the legal firm's investigation.

Wiks disciplined: Deputy police chief lied about evidence to newspaper reporter

Police Chief Russell Sabo swiftly removed deputy chief Dan Wiks from his post following Wiks' admission to the Stonechild inquiry he lied to The StarPhoenix about evidence.

Sabo hastily announced Wednesday that Wiks was placed on paid administrative leave last Friday, a day after wrapping up testimony to the inquiry.

The leave is pending a police misconduct investigation by an external party not yet selected.

Wiks, who has served 31 years with the force, had denied in a May 2003 interview that the service knew RCMP considered constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger suspects and that there was evidence suggesting Stonechild had been in their car the night he went missing.

"All of us recognize that the public must have confidence in their police," Sabo said in an interview. "Any circumstance where the police are alleged to have committed a misconduct and public confidence is an issue of grave concern to myself as chief of police and all our members."

Wiks' leave status will be reviewed before the end of the month. The force could then consider suspending Wiks.

Sabo said whether administrative leave is a disciplinary move is subject to interpretation.

Const. Stan Goertzen, president of the city police association, said it seems clear to him.

"An administrative leave sounds like a suspension to me. It's just sugar-coating a suspension."

Wiks is not a member of the police association. Goertzen said rank and file officers are struggling to reconcile Wiks' testimony with the man they know.

"Did he deliberately try to mislead (media)? I'd be real surprised. Should he have been clearer? Possibly."

Wiks, who couldn't be reached for comment, was "supportive" of administrative leave and understands the seriousness of the matter, Sabo said.

Sabo acknowledges he knew himself that Hartwig and Senger were suspects long before the newspaper article appeared. He didn't catch the lie at that time because he was then on his own leave and wasn't reading the newspaper.

"First time I saw (the article) was during the inquiry," he said. "I was trying to avoid all of the media during that time."

Mayor Don Atchison, chair of the police commission, said he wasn't aware until Wednesday of the change in Wiks' status. He said he hopes the public is encouraged that the force is taking action.

"They're trying to address it immediately, as opposed to just letting it lie there until someone comes forward with a complaint."

Don Worme, lawyer for Neil Stonechild's family, and Si Halyk, lawyer for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, declined comment on Wiks' leave.

The service will appoint a senior officer to take Wiks' place while he's away.

It's unusual for the force to publicize internal discipline matters, Sabo acknowledged. He said he did so late Wednesday afternoon as a result of StarPhoenix inquiries about Wiks' status.

Sabo himself was on a paid leave of absence for eight weeks last year while an investigation into harassment of his former executive assistant was ongoing. He then returned to work after he publicly apologized for his actions.

"I have a great deal of sympathy for any officer that goes through an investigation," he said.

Sorry, Sabo tells Klassens

Chief Russell Sabo

Saskatoon police Chief Russell Sabo apologized Wednesday to the Klassen family and announced he hired a law firm to investigate the role Supt. Brian Dueck played in their malicious prosecution.

"My sympathy goes to each and every person that was wrongfully charged and I extend my apologies to them for any part that the Saskatoon Police Service played in this case," Sabo told a press conference. He was not Saskatoon's police chief when the bizarre allegations surfaced.

Dueck, who is off work on a medical leave that began Monday, is suspended from conducting police work while the investigation continues, Sabo said.

Last week Justice George Baynton of the Court of Queen's Bench issued a scathing judgment that included criticisms of the way Dueck doggedly pursued charges against Richard Klassen and 11 family members accused of ritual abuse against three foster children more than a decade ago.

Baynton ruled that Dueck, along with child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, had maliciously prosecuted the plaintiffs. Dueck was ruled to have conducted a shoddy investigation of the sexual abuse allegations and ignored evidence that would have cleared the accused.

The 12 plaintiffs were seeking more than $10 million in the civil case.

The investigation will focus on the evidence presented during the civil proceedings to determine whether Dueck violated any part of the Saskatchewan Police Act, said Insp. Lorne Constantinoff, a spokesperson for the department.

It won't look at the actions of others in the department, including Dueck's supervisors at the time.

The department didn't take action before the judgment because it was waiting for due process to take its course, Constantinoff said.

Dueck was in charge of records management at the department before his leave and earns about $100,000 a year.

Richard Klassen, who represented himself at the civil trial, was disappointed the chief didn't fire Dueck outright, given the evidence and the harshness of the ruling.

But he was pleased and overwhelmed by Sabo's apology, he said in an interview.

"I talked to him before and I expected him to do the right thing," he said.

Klassen believes Sabo's action -- and the work done by "98 per cent" of the police service — demonstrates that Saskatoon's citizens should have a lot of faith in the department, he said.

"A few bad apples (however) will ruin it for everyone," he added. "The rest all get painted with the same brush . . . but I think Saskatoon police are moving in the right direction."

Although ministers from either the Justice or Community Resources departments (responsible for social services) have yet to comment on the decision, Justice Minister Frank Quennell is expected to hold a press conference in Regina sometime today.

The malicious prosecution lawsuit stemmed from an investigation in the 1990s when Klassen, his wife and other family members were accused of sexually abusing twins Kathy and Michell Ross and their older brother Michael. The allegations included detailed accounts of satanic ritual abuse, which included animal and human sacrifice, as well as claims the children had been forced to eat feces and drink urine.

The children later recanted their stories, and Michael Ross was found to be abusing his sisters.

Police arrested 16 people in 1991, but charges against 12 of them were stayed in 1993 after Klassen's father, Peter, pleaded guilty to sexual assault as part of a plea bargain to spare his family members.

Baynton's judgment came just as a separate inquiry is taking place in Saskatoon regarding the investigation of the 1990 death of 17-year-old Neil Stonechild.

Witnesses at that inquiry have been critical of the cursory manner in which that investigation took place.

And Sabo's apology comes just a day after Regina's Chief Cal Johnston apologized to that city's citizens after a 20-year member of that service was convicted for the theft of a laptop.

In spite of these problems, Sabo (who came to Saskatoon two years ago from Calgary) doesn't believe there is anything endemically wrong with Saskatchewan's police.

Police in this province are held to a high standard — just as they are across the country, he said. One doesn't hear of problems here any more than in other cities, he added.

There is concern within the department, from the executive to the rank and file, of the black eyes the force has suffered, he said.

But the Saskatoon police service is an entirely different force than what it was two years ago. Since 2000, more than 100 new members have joined the force and they are all very concerned "over the safety of this city," he said.

Although the damages have not yet been awarded in the lawsuit, all but the $50,000 deductible for the amount Dueck will be responsible for will come from insurance, said city solicitor Theresa Dust. It's impossible to say whether the settlement with the Klassen family will result in higher premiums because insurance companies look at a number of issues when setting rates, she said.

Saskatoon police chief apologizes to family accused of foster kids sex abuse

SASKATOON (CP) - The city's police chief publicly apologized Wednesday to 12 people wrongfully accused of ritualistically abusing three young foster children more than a decade ago.

Russell Sabo also said he is enlisting the services of a Saskatoon law firm to determine if there were any violations by investigators under the Saskatchewan Police Act. "My sympathy goes to each and every person that was wrongfully charged," Sabo said.

"I extend my apologies to them for any part that the Saskatoon police service played in this case."

Last week, a judge ruled that investigators had been malicious in their pursuit of a case against 12 members of the Klassen family.

The ruling applied to three of the lead investigators: Saskatoon police Supt. Brian Dueck, who was a corporal when the case broke; therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys and Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga.

Sabo said Dueck started a paid medical leave on Monday. He will not be working while the review is done. Sabo would not give details about Dueck's health.

Saskatoon police issue Klassen apology

SASKATOON - The Saskatoon police department has issued an apology to a family that a court found was maliciously prosecuted after two children made allegations of satanic sexual abuse.

Chief Russell Sabo issued the apology at a press conference in Saskatoon Wednesday morning.

The case involved 12 members of the Klassen family. They people took the case to court and won after claiming the prosecutor and the police officer in the case were malicious in pursuing allegations made by two foster children.

The charges against the Klassens were left in place for more than a year after the two children admitted they lied about the satanic sexual abuse rituals and only one person was ever charged in the case after pleading guilty instead of having the case tried.

Richard Klassen, who was among the twelve plaintiffs seeking $10 million in damages, says the chief's apology is a good start to the healing process, but he still wants to hear an apology from officer Brian Dueck, the lead investigator in the case.

A judge ruled that Crown prosecutor Matthew Miazga, police officer Brian Dueck and child therapist Carol Bunko-Ruys maliciously prosecuted the plaintiffs, but dismissed the claims against a fourth defendant, Crown prosecutor Sonja Hansen. The judge also dismissed Miazga's and Hansen's counterclaim against Klassen for defamation.

Thirteen people were originally arrested in 1991 and charged with over 70 criminal offences. The charges involved foster children making wild allegations about bondage, bloodletting, mutilation and murder.

Sabo says he's appointed an independent lawyer to review the case and see if there have been violations of the police act. Klassen thinks the chief should expand the investigation to consider criminal charges

It is the first time in the province's history that anyone has successfully sued for malicious prosecution.