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Dan Wiks cleared to return to work

Deputy police chief gets one-day suspension, probation for a year

Dan Wiks

Did not lie. Choice of words "wasn't the best". nudge, nudge, wink, wink

Dan Wiks expects to return to work as Saskatoon's deputy police chief after he serves a one-day unpaid suspension for giving inaccurate information to a reporter.

"I'm looking forward to getting back to work," Wiks said in an interview from his home.

The 32-year employee with the Saskatoon Police Service has been on paid administrative leave for more than 18 months after he was charged with discreditable conduct under The Police Act by Chief Russ Sabo.

On Thursday, disciplinary hearing officer Murray Hinds ordered that in addition to the one-day suspension, Wiks be placed on probation for one year during which time he will be subject to quarterly performance reviews. A reprimand will also be placed on his personnel file.

In August, after a disciplinary hearing that took place from 2004 through to May 2005, Wiks was found guilty of a minor charge of negligence for knowingly giving a StarPhoenix reporter an inaccurate statement in May 2003. He was originally charged with two major counts of discreditable conduct. However, Hinds cleared Wiks of the more serious charges.

During a May 2003 interview, Wiks told a reporter that police had no indication of officer involvement in the freezing death of Neil Stonechild, a 17-year-old whose body was found in the city's north industrial area in 1990. He also told the reporter that he did not know constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Sender were considered suspects by the RCMP.

But while testifying at the 2004 judicial inquiry into Stonechild's death, Wiks admitted the police service had known since 2000 that the RCMP suspected Hartwig and Senger.

In his written decision dated Thursday, Hinds said he took into consideration Wiks' work history with Saskatoon police.

"During his lengthy service, deputy chief Wiks had not been the subject of public complaint. By all accounts he has served the citizens of Saskatoon well, both professionally as a police officer and personally by his community activities," wrote Hinds.

However, he also noted the seriousness of Wiks' conduct. As second-in-command with the police department, he was the acting chief of police at the time of the interview.

"Such negligent conduct of the most senior officer of the Saskatoon Police Service is not insignifi cant, inconsequential or a 'minor slip up.' More is expected of police officers," said Hinds in his decision.

Hinds noted Wiks' negligence put additional strain on the tenuous relationship between the First Nations community and the police service and he created a situation where the public's confi dence in the police force was questioned.

When contacted Friday, Wiks had not received a copy of Hinds' sentencing report and would not comment on the disciplinary actions.

He did say he has no immediate plans to retire from the police force but is eager to report for work as deputy chief. He says once he's back at work he plans to sit down informally with First Nations leaders and members of the news media to sort out some of the issues raised during the disciplinary hearings.

"I want to have a discussion to see how I can do things better," he said.

Saskatoon Tribal Council Chief Glenn Johnstone is looking forward to that kind of meeting, but he's disappointed with what he sees as a lenient penalty.

"That's like a slap in the face to our concerns that we brought forward (during the disciplinary hearing)," said Johnstone, who believes that Wiks' should have been placed on an unpaid suspension for at least a month.

Johnstone said he is also opposed to Wiks being reinstated as the deputy chief when he returns to work.

"I know it wasn't proven he purposely did that, but lots of people just don't believe that.

"That's too big of a thing that he did, regardless if it was a slip of his tongue," said Johnstone.

Saskatoon police will comment on Hinds' sentencing decision at a news conference scheduled for Tuesday, says a police news release.

Requests for comment from Sabo were declined Friday.


Natives have lost faith in Wiks, tribal council says

Dan Wiks should not be allowed to return to duty as the city's deputy police chief if the force hopes to improve relations with First Nations people, the chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council charged Monday.

"I don't think we'd be very pleased with that at all," said Chief Glenn Johnstone, speaking to reporters after testifying at Wiks' sentencing hearing.

Wiks was cleared last month of two major charges of discreditable conduct issued against him by police Chief Russell Sabo in August 2004.

However, he was found guilty of a minor charge of negligence for knowingly giving a reporter an inaccurate statement in May 2003 that misled the public.

As such, there remains a perception among some aboriginals that police officers are not trustworthy, said Johnstone. Allowing Wiks to resume his post as second-in-charge of the force would fracture relations further.

"I think the breach (in relations) would be too great. He needs to be replaced or not allowed to hold that position again," said Johnstone, who paused when asked if Wiks should be fired. "I don't know if I'd say that."

After reading an apology and admitting his guilt, Wiks promised "to make every attempt not to make the same mistake again." He then said he would like to meet Johnstone and discuss those concerns.

Neither a demotion nor termination is likely. Discipline for a minor offence under the Police Act ranges from a complete dismissal of the matter to a reprimand, imposed training, counselling, probation, a one-day suspension, a fine of $350, or any combination of these penalties.

A written decision on Wiks' punishment will be made within the month, said hearing officer Murray Hinds. In the meantime, Wiks will remain on paid administrative leave, as he has been for the past 18 months.

A lengthy disciplinary hearing took place from 2004 through to May 2005. After the guilty finding last month, Monday was set aside for sentencing arguments.

During a May 2003 interview, Wiks told then-StarPhoenix reporter James Parker police had no indication of officer involvement in the freezing death of Neil Stonechild, a 17-year-old whose body was found in the city's north industrial area in 1990. He also told Parker he did not know constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger were considered suspects by RCMP.

But while testifying at the 2004 judicial inquiry into Stonechild's death, Wiks admitted the police service had known since 2000 that the RCMP suspected Hartwig and Senger.

The comments to Parker came at a time police were under suspicion of conducting so-called starlight tours -- dropping drunken aboriginal men outside the city to walk back and sober up.

"The consequence (of Wiks') negligence was that it elevated those suspicions from officer wrongdoing to a coverup at the highest levels," said police commission lawyer Mitch Holash, who said the disciplinary options at Hinds' disposal were inadequate.

"This is as serious as it can get but there is no sentence from the limited tools that you have that will adequately reflect that," he told Hinds.

The police service was thrown into disrepute, its credibility was tainted and relations were strained between the force and First Nations people, he said. Holash also read an impact statement provided by the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), which said the "act of dishonesty" was made worse because of Wiks' position. At the time, he was acting chief of the police service.

"First Nations people have long held the belief that the justice system does not care about our people; an act of violence upon a First Nations is poorly investigated, quickly closed and viewed as 'just another dead Indian,' " says the submission by the FSIN Indian justice commission.

In his decision last month, Hinds rejected the theory of a "thin blue line" -- a brotherhood of loyalty between officers to protect one another and cover up wrongdoing. He specifically found Wiks to have no part in any such activity, noted Wiks' lawyer, Richard Danyliuk.

"That message doesn't seem to be getting out there," he said.

Danyliuk highlighted Wiks' 32 years of spotless service but admitted his client is not perfect and "stepped in a cow pie" on this matter.

"He made a mistake. He was wearing the hat with the golden braid on it (at the time) so he's got to pay the piper," Danyliuk said, but questioned how much payment needs to be made.

Wiks and his family have suffered national shame in the media and he has already been off work for 18 months. Wiks expects and is deserving of a reprimand as well as some media relations training, but not much more, Danyliuk added.

"He's not trying to cover anything up. He was critical of the Stonechild investigation, saying it failed Neil. Dan Wiks is the guy you would want to be leading and inspiring the ranks . . . because of all of his skills and integrity."

Holash objected to Danyliuk's "cloak of martyrdom" description, requesting a reprimand, a much longer and detailed letter of apology, a probation period and suspension -- as much as can be given and at the highest extremes.

"He should stand to be clearly responsible," Holash said. "Negligence is a departure from the expected standard of professionalism."


Wiks deserves help with fees: lawyer

Deputy police chief Dan Wiks should be reimbursed for legal fees incurred during his disciplinary hearing since he was found guilty of little more than a "slip-up," his lawyer maintains.

"Given that he was cleared on two major allegations against him and only held to task on a minor slip-up, fairness would dictate that he should get at least some coverage for his legal fees," said lawyer Richard Danyliuk. "I don't think there's any doubt about that."

Wiks is not a member of the executive officers' association nor is he a member of the Saskatoon City Police Association, which covers most rank-and-file members of the force. As a result, his bill will be paid out of his own pocket unless City of Saskatoon insurance will cover some of it.

"He falls into a crack," said Danyliuk.

Taxpayers are already on the hook for more than $100,000 as a result of Wiks' disciplinary hearing earlier this year. And after being found guilty, even of a minor offence, Wiks will face another hearing this month to determine his penalty. That process will add to the tab.

"The institutions of democracy and of justice in our society have a cost," Mitchell Holash, lawyer for the Saskatoon Police Service, said during a Wednesday press conference to announce the decision from the disciplinary hearing. "But it is important that this process be undertaken for transparency in order to instil confidence in the public discipline process."

Whether the city can be found liable for some of Wiks' legal costs is a decision hearing officer Murray Hinds will have to make during sentencing later this month. If Danyliuk tries to suggest it, Holash said he is ready to fight it on behalf of the police service and therefore, the city.

"They should expect some resistance," Holash said.

The finding against Wiks may have been deemed as minor under the Police Act, but there is still no doubt he misled the public, which is his own fault, said Holash.

"It is still an offence."

Danyliuk wouldn't say what Wiks' legal fees total, citing solicitor-client privilege.

The costs to this point include the fees for Holash, Hinds, hiring a court reporter and renting a facility to hold the hearing.

Wiks was cleared of the two major charges facing him -- that he wilfully made a false or inaccurate statement or alternatively, acted in a manner that was unbecoming or dishonourable to himself as a police officer.

Hinds had the option to consider a lesser offence under the second charge and that is what he chose to do, finding Wiks guilty of carelessly giving an inaccurate statement that misled the public and media.

The decision was released exactly one year after police Chief Russ Sabo issued the charges against Wiks. They stem from an incident in May 2003 when then-StarPhoenix reporter James Parker queried Wiks about police involvement in the freezing death of Neil Stonechild.

Wiks told Parker he wasn't aware of any police involvement or that constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger (later fired by Sabo) were considered suspects by the RCMP. Wiks later admitted the police service had known that since 2000. At his disciplinary hearing, Wiks said he didn't explain himself properly to Parker.

A conference call is scheduled for today between Holash, Danyliuk and Hinds to set a date for the sentencing. That hearing will be open to the public.

Discipline for a minor offence ranges from a complete dismissal of the matter to a reprimand, training, counselling, a one-day suspension or a fine of $350. The penalty could also include all of these.

Danyliuk suggested his client has experienced enough punishment already, being away from his duties for about a year and a half and enduring public scrutiny. As such, Danyliuk will likely seek a dismissal.

"Given that he is an officer of over 30 years' experience, given that he's got a spotless discipline record, given that he is decorated with the medal of bravery -- this experience of the last 18 months, I'm not sure what else you could do to him to make it any worse, quite frankly," he said.

Wiks remains on administrative leave with pay until the disciplinary process is completed.


Closing arguments put forth at Wiks hearing

Deputy police chief Dan Wiks misled a reporter asking legitimate questions on behalf of the public and thus put the Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) into disrepute, the lawyer for the police service said Friday at Wiks' discipline hearing.

"What he knew of the RCMP investigation just didn't jive with what he told (former StarPhoenix reporter James) Parker in the article. . . . Four other police officers said knowing the same things, they couldn't come to the same conclusions that deputy chief Wiks was articulating," lawyer Mitch Holash said following closing arguments at the discipline hearing.

Wiks admitted on the stand that the way he answered Parker's questions could reasonably lead the general public to conclude that the police were involved in a cover up, Holash said.

"What that does to the public confidence, that should be a major offence," Holash said.

Wiks denies that he intentionally misled Parker.

Wiks' lawyer, Richard Danyliuk, said there isn't enough information about the exact questions Parker asked for hearing officer Murray Hinds to determine that Wiks intended to mislead.

"There was really no evidence of any intention to lie or deceive on his part," Danyliuk said.

"He gave his evidence in very forthright manner and it's capable of being believed and should be believed by the hearing officer.

"He acknowledged that he could have phrased things better, could have chosen words to be clearer, but I don't think anybody had any alarm bells ringing off that interview," Danyliuk said.

Wiks was charged with two counts of discreditable conduct over misleading statements he made in a StarPhoenix interview in 2003, statements pertaining to two constables who sought standing at a judicial inquiry into the 1990 freezing death of aboriginal teen Neil Stonechild.

Wiks told Parker the SPS did not know constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger were considered suspects in the RCMP reinvestigation of Stonechild's death.

"The only reason we would suspend somebody is if we had some indication that there was some wrongdoing. We had no indication of that whatsoever. And we still don't," Wiks said in the interview.

Wiks has never challenged the accuracy of the quotations.

"The questions were worthy of candid, intelligent, forthright answers. They were not deserving of public relations spin, deflection, the blue wall of denial or obfuscation," Holash said.

He called several of Wiks' explanations "incongruent and contradictory."

Danyliuk pointed out that Wiks was in charge of the quick and successful investigation into Darrell Night's complaint of being abandoned on the city outskirts by two uniformed officers. That resulted in Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson being convicted of unlawful confinement, being fired and sentenced to jail.

Wiks' work on that case showed he was not closed to the possibility of police misconduct and thus can't be said to have a "blue wall" mentality, Danyliuk said.

Hinds reserved his decision. No date has been set for the decision.


Choice of words poor, Wiks tells hearing
Says answer to SP reporter about RCMP investigation could have been correct

Saskatoon deputy police chief Dan Wiks says comments he made to a StarPhoenix reporter that have landed him before a disciplinary hearing could have been correct.

Wiks is charged with discreditable conduct after telling former reporter James Parker that two officers were not considered suspects in the freezing death of 17-year-old Neil Stonechild. Stonechild's frozen body was found on Nov. 27, 1990. In a 2004 inquiry into Stonechild's death, commissioner Justice David Wright found constables Bradley Senger and Larry Hartwig had Stonechild in their cruiser the night he died. Marks on Stonechild's nose were also likely caused by handcuffs, Wright found.

When Wiks spoke to Parker on May 1, 2003, Wiks knew the RCMP considered Senger and Hartwig suspects in Stonechild's death, RCMP chief Supt. Darrell McFadyen previously testified.

Wiks has been suspended with pay since March 2004, when he told the Stonechild inquiry he misspoke in his statements to Parker.

"The only reason we would suspend somebody is if we had some indication that there was some wrongdoing. We had no indication of that whatsoever. And we still don't," Wiks said in the 2003 interview.

Wiks reiterated Tuesday he didn't give Parker the right information. He said his choice of words "wasn't the best" and he didn't explain himself properly. He also didn't remember what question Parker asked him to prompt the answer.

He said Saskatchewan Justice's examination of evidence collected by the RCMP didn't find any grounds to lay charges, so he didn't consider Hartwig and Senger suspects. Wiks also told Parker he knew the RCMP had interviewed several officers, but the department didn't know Senger and Hartwig were suspects.

Again, Wiks could not recall the question that prompted his statement. If Parker asked if Saskatoon police considered Hartwig or Senger suspects when Stonechild's death was investigated in April 2000, rather than in 2003, Wiks said his answer was correct.

"(In April 2000), I didn't know Hartwig and Senger were involved in any way, shape or form," he said.

If the question was whether police considered the men suspects in May 2003, his statement was inaccurate, he told the hearing officer.

"I knew (then) that the RCMP were considering these people as suspects," Wiks testified. "They were jumping through all the right hoops."

Parker could not find his notes or tapes from that interview. Saskatoon police Insp. Keith Atkinson took notes during the interview and wrote "re: April 2000" at the top, indicating he thought Parker's questions pertained to three years previous.

Wiks testified he should have told Parker he didn't know whether the police department considered the two officers suspects. Although he did not consider the men guilty, he didn't know what police Chief Russ Sabo thought.

Wiks never intended to lie when he made his comments in 2003, his lawyer Richard Danyliuk said.

"There was never an intention to deceive the media, the public, to deceive anyone," he said. "He indicates he should have been clearer."

If hearing officer Murray Hinds finds Wiks did not lie, he could be exonerated on one count of discreditable conduct, Danyliuk said.

"The other count . . . involves an element of carelessness or negligence, and I think the hearing officer will assess all of the evidence to determine what standard (Wiks) should be held to and what degree of accuracy he should be held to," Danyliuk said in an interview.

Saskatoon Police Service lawyer Mitch Holash began his cross-examination of Wiks Tuesday. The hearing will continue next Monday.


RCMP didn't share details of investigation, Wiks tells hearing

A high-ranking Saskatoon police officer told his disciplinary hearing today he always questioned what the officers who were with Neil Stonechild the night he died had done wrong.

Monday marked the continuation of deputy police chief Dan Wiks's disciplinary hearing. He is charged with discreditable conduct for giving misleading statements to a StarPhoenix reporter in May 2003.

Before an inquiry into the death of 17-year-old Stonechild, Wiks said in an interview with former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker that the police had no indication of wrongdoing in the case and police did not know constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger were suspects in the case.

Police Chief Russ Sabo fired Senger and Hartwig after inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright found they had Stonechild in their cruiser the night he went missing. Stonechild's frozen body was found Nov. 30, 1990, with marks on him likely made by handcuffs, Wright found.

Wiks has been on paid administrative leave since he admitted at the Stonechild inquiry he gave incorrect information to Parker.

On Monday, his lawyer, Richard Danyliuk, walked the hearing through the timeline leading up to Wiks's comments. In February 2000, Wiks became the liaison between the Saskatoon Police Service and the RCMP during the RCMP's investigation into the freezing death of Stonechild.

Wiks said Monday that between February 2000 and May 2002, RCMP Chief Supt. Darrell McFadyen came to him regularly for information and evidence for the RCMP investigations. Wiks said it was a "one-way street" and McFadyen never told him about details they had unearthed.

"I didn't ask them questions. That wasn't my role," Wiks testified.

His role changed when McFadyen began sharing some of the details of the Stonechild investigation with him in the summer of 2002, he said.

When McFadyen gave Wiks verbal reports, Wiks said the Police Act, which obliges police to investigate wrongdoing by officers, was always on his mind. Wiks testified he often made sure other officers were present in these meetings to ensure he hadn't overlooked important details.

After Sabo was hired, Wiks said he told him in January 2003 he still had not established what, if anything, Hartwig and Senger had done wrong.

"I was trying to be vigilant," he said. "I was trying to report back the information I had so they could make a decision over (an internal investigation)."

McFadyen previously testified Wiks knew Hartwig and Senger were suspects in the RCMP's criminal investigation.

On Monday morning, Danyliuk called his only other witness, Staff Sgt. Murray Zoorkan. When Zoorkan was given the task of examining the transcripts of wire taps collected by the RCMP, Wiks instructed him to notify him if any evidence pointed to police wrongdoing. Wiks said the exercise was not a "witch hunt," Zoorkan said.

"We still don't know that anyone did anything wrong. We only have a 'blank space' from the first call to when Stonechild got out of the car," Zoorkan had written in his notebook after Wiks briefed him on the case.

In cross-examination by Saskatoon Police Service lawyer Mitch Holash, Zoorkan said it was clear to him Hartwig and Senger were suspects in the investigation.

"You've got some evidence of wrongdoing on those police officers?" Holash asked.

"Yes (but) not conclusive," Zoorkan answered.

"(Zoorkan) indicated that as early as November 2000, in a meeting that he sat in with deputy chief Wiks, it was clear to Staff Sgt. Zoorkan that there was some evidence of wrongdoing from the investigation and that it was clear that constables Hartwig and Senger were suspects in that investigation," Holash said in an interview. "Those are the very points that deputy chief Wiks denied in May 2003, nearly three years later."

Wiks, a 52-year-old police officer with 34 years of experience, has won police awards for exemplary service, the Queen's Jubilee Medal for community service and the Governor General's Medal of Bravery. Danyliuk said Wiks's long-standing reputation as a respected officer rides on the outcome of the hearing.

Wiks's testimony continues this morning.


RCMP reviewed details with Wiks
Deputy police chief knew about Senger, Hartwig link in 2000, RCMP officer says

The head of the RCMP investigation into Neil Stonechild's death told deputy city police chief Dan Wiks about the evidence linking two city constables to Stonechild the night he was last seen alive three years before Wiks told a newspaper reporter the department didn't know the two officers were suspects in the case.

Wiks has been charged with two counts of discreditable conduct over misleading statements he made in The StarPhoenix interview. The statements pertained to former constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger seeking standing at a judicial inquiry into the 1990 freezing death of the aboriginal teenager.

RCMP chief Supt. Darrell McFadyen told Wiks' discipline hearing Thursday that he reviewed the investigation findings that left Hartwig and Senger as the only suspects in the case with Wiks and other high-ranking Saskatoon police officers.

McFadyen went through his notebook, identifying no fewer than 25 contacts with Wiks between May 29, 2000, and May 1, 2003, in which the investigation was a topic of discussion.

Stonechild's friend, Jason Roy, was asserting he had seen Stonechild in the back of a police car, handcuffed, with blood on his face, screaming, "They're gonna kill me."

Parts of Roy's story were corroborated by other evidence. Police computer records revealed that Hartwig and Senger had been dispatched to a complaint involving Stonechild that night and had made several computer queries related to that.

The RCMP also told Saskatoon police that autopsy photographs showed marks on Stonechild's face and hands that could have been made by handcuffs.

The investigators had tapped the constables' home phones, Senger had tested "deceptive" on a polygraph and Hartwig had refused repeated requests to take one.

Even a junior investigator would have understood that Hartwig and Senger were suspects, McFadyen said when asked by lawyer Mitchell Holash, who represents police Chief Russ Sabo.

On May 1, 2003, Wiks told former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker: "The only reason we would suspend somebody is if we had some indication that there was some wrongdoing. We had no indication of that whatsoever. And we still don't."

Wiks also said in the interview the department did not know Hartwig and Senger were considered suspects.

Sabo charged Wiks in September 2004 with offences under two sections of the Municipal Police Discipline Regulations.

Wiks has been on paid administrative leave since March 2004, after he acknowledged while testifying at the Stonechild inquiry that he gave incorrect information in the Parker interview.

The Police Act provides a broad range of penalties ranging from remedial action, such as education or counselling, to dismissal from the force.

Earlier this week, Sabo told hearing officer Murray Hinds that Senger had taken a second polygraph test shortly before the Stonechild inquiry began in September 2003, but Sabo did not say what the result of the second polygraph was.

Inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright found Stonechild had been in police custody the night he was last seen alive and that his body was found five days later in an industrial area bearing marks that were probably caused by handcuffs. Hartwig and Senger were fired and are appealing. Hearings for their appeal will be held in May.


Deputy chief knew constables were suspects:
RCMP investigator

Disciplinary hearing told Wiks kept fully abreast of outside investigation

The RCMP had told deputy city police chief Dan Wiks that two Saskatoon police constables were suspects in an RCMP investigation into the death of Neil Stonechild, the head of the investigation told Wiks' disciplinary hearing Wednesday.

Wiks is charged with discreditable conduct for making misleading statements when he told a StarPhoenix reporter in May 2003 that the Saskatoon police department had no indication of any wrongdoing, and that the department did not know Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger were considered suspects in the case.

Chief Supt. Darrell McFadyen confirmed that the RCMP were conducting a criminal investigation, not an internal investigation.

The distinction was raised in light of testimony earlier this week, when Saskatoon police Insp. Keith Atkinson responded to a question from Wiks' lawyer, Richard Danyliuk. Atkinson said the term "suspect" is used in general criminal investigations, while the term "subject" is used in internal police investigations.

McFadyen said he also told Wiks the RCMP had a witness, Jason Roy, who said he saw Stonechild in the back seat of a police car the night he went missing. Roy said Stonechild was handcuffed, bloodied, and screamed, "They're gonna kill me."

Wiks had also been told Senger had failed a polygraph and Hartwig had refused to take it. Wiks also knew the RCMP had tapped the phones of both constables, McFadyen said.

McFadyen was in charge of a massive RCMP task force looking into an allegation by a Cree man, Darrell Night, that Saskatoon police had abandoned him on the outskirts of the city in freezing weather. The task force, known as Project Ferric, also looked into the deaths of five other aboriginal men and allegations of police involvement in those cases.

Wiks was the Saskatoon police liaison to Project Ferric, McFadyen said. Wiks was a top-level contact and as such, was given information about the RCMP investigation that other Saskatoon police did not know, McFadyen said.

The Darrell Night investigation resulted in criminal charges against two Saskatoon constables, Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson, who were later convicted of unlawful confinement and were fired from the department.

Coroner's inquests were held into the circumstances of the deaths of Rodney Naistus, Lawrence Wegner, Darcy Ironchild and Lloyd Dustyhorn. None of those resulted in criminal charges.

The fifth death, that of Neil Stonechild, resulted in a six-month judicial inquiry, where Wiks acknowledged he had given inaccurate information to former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker.

Wiks has been on administrative leave since about a week after his testimony at the inquiry.

Stonechild inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright found that Hartwig and Senger had Stonechild in their custody the night he went missing and that his frozen body was found five days later, on Nov. 29, 1990, bearing marks that were probably made by handcuffs. Hartwig and Senger were fired and are appealing.

Earlier in the day, Danyliuk questioned city police Chief Russ Sabo on the completeness of a "can-say" statement he provided prior to the disciplinary hearings. A "can-say" is a form of statement police routinely provide to criminal defence lawyers.

It contains a comprehensive summary of evidence police will testify about while under oath at a hearing.

Sabo acknowledged that the can-say did not include a point that came out Tuesday. Sabo said during a September 2003 meeting involving him, Wiks and Stonechild commission counsel Joel Hesje, Hesje had raised the point that Wiks' May 2003 statements to Parker conflicted with information the commission had. Hesje said he would question Wiks on the matter when Wiks testified at the inquiry, Sabo said.

Danyliuk said the can-say was incomplete without that information. Sabo agreed.

Danyliuk said it was not his intention to drag Sabo through the muck but to discuss the standard of honesty to which Wiks was being held to account.

Sabo's lawyer, Mitchell Holash, objected to Danyliuk's line of questioning, saying Danyliuk was drawing attention to Sabo's conduct as a "diversion."

"This is a duck calling from the tall weeds," Holash said.

Holash said Danyliuk's questions are relevant to Wiks' "accountability, remorsefulness and state of mind."


Interview at heart of charges
Hearings begin for officer charged with discreditable conduct

When police investigate possible wrongdoing by one of their own, they refer to the individual as a "subject" rather than a "suspect" as they would in the investigation of a non-police officer, the disciplinary hearing of deputy chief Dan Wiks heard Monday.

That difference in terminology may become important to Wiks' defence as the hearings continue through the rest of this week.

Wiks was charged with two counts of discreditable conduct over misleading statements he made in a StarPhoenix interview in 2003, pertaining to two officers who sought standing at a judicial inquiry into the 1990 freezing death of aboriginal teen Neil Stonechild.

Wiks told former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker the Saskatoon Police Service did not know constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger were considered suspects in the RCMP reinvestigation of Stonechild's death.

When asked why Hartwig and Senger had not been suspended while RCMP investigated their possible involvement in the death, Wiks replied, "The only reason we would suspend somebody is if we had some indication that there was some wrongdoing. We had no indication of that whatsoever. And we still don't."

Wiks has never challenged the accuracy of the quotations.

The reported statements were supported Monday by Insp. Keith Atkinson, who was in Wiks' office listening to The StarPhoenix interview on a speaker phone and making notes.

At the time, Atkinson did not know how much information Wiks had about the Stonechild matter. Wiks was the city police liaison with the RCMP on the Stonechild investigation but Atkinson knew only that Wiks was aware that RCMP had expert testimony that linked two parallel scratches on Stonechild's nose to police handcuffs.

Members of the force were not generally aware of what was going on with the RCMP investigation, but Atkinson said he had heard a CBC radio report in September 2001 that Saskatchewan Justice would charge two members of the police service in connection with the death. The CBC did not provide names of those who would be charged. Saskatchewan Justice did not lay charges.

Despite his comments to Parker, Wiks told the inquiry in 2004 that the police service did have "significant evidence" since June 2000 that RCMP had found there was a possibility that Hartwig and Senger had Stonechild in their car the night he went missing.

Statements made at judicial inquiries cannot be used by themselves as evidence at criminal or civil proceedings.

On Monday, Parker, who now works as a communications officer with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Canada in Regina, said he sought an interview with police when Hartwig's and Senger's affidavits seeking standing and funding at the Stonechild inquiry became public.

Both constables swore in the affidavits they had been suspects in the 2000 RCMP investigation into Stonechild's death.

Parker wanted to know why Hartwig and Senger were still on duty if they had been suspects in the investigation.

Atkinson's notes begin with "re: April 2000," which he thought meant Parker's questions were specific to that period three years earlier.

Wiks' lawyer, Richard Danyliuk, argued against Chief Russ Sabo's lawyer, Mitch Holash, being able to ask questions about the "issues team." This team of senior officers was created by the police service to address matters arising from the Stonechild inquiry.

Hearing officer Murray Hinds ruled the evidence would be admissible.

Sabo charged Wiks in September 2004 with offences under two sections of the Municipal Police Discipline Regulations.

Wiks has been on paid administrative leave since March 2003, after he acknowledged while testifying at the inquiry that he gave incorrect information to Parker in the May 2003 interview.

The Police Act provides a broad range of penalties ranging from remedial action, such as education or counselling, to dismissal from the force.

Wiks acknowledged at the inquiry that he was aware the RCMP were looking into an allegation by Stonechild's friend, Jason Roy, that he had seen Stonechild the night he went missing in the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed and bleeding and screaming, "they're gonna kill me."

Inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright found Stonechild had been in police custody the night he was last seen alive and that his body was found five days later in an industrial area bearing marks that were probably caused by handcuffs. Hartwig and Senger were fired and are appealing. Hearings for their appeal will be heard in April.

Wright also found that former Saskatoon police investigator Keith Jarvis closed the file prematurely because he was aware of police involvement or suspected police involvement.

Wiks was the highest ranking current member of the force to testify at the inquiry.


Senger failed polygraph twice
Sabo: Hartwig refused to take test administered by RCMP officer

Bradley Senger, one of two former Saskatoon constables fired in the wake of the Neil Stonechild inquiry, failed two police-administered polygraph tests, police Chief Russ Sabo said Tuesday.

And Larry Hartwig, his partner the night the aboriginal teenager went missing, refused to undergo the lie detector tests, Sabo added.

Sabo was testifying at the disciplinary hearing of deputy police chief Dan Wiks, who is charged with discreditable conduct for giving misleading statements to a StarPhoenix reporter.

Wiks said in a May 1, 2003, interview that "the only reason we would suspend somebody is if we had some indication that there was some wrongdoing. We had no indication of that whatsoever. And we still don't."

Wiks also said in the article the department did not know Hartwig and Senger were considered suspects.

Sabo said Tuesday that Wiks told him in December 2001, shortly after Sabo joined the department as chief, that the pair were suspects in the RCMP investigation of Stonechild's 1990 freezing death and subsequent Saskatoon police investigation.

Sabo testified Wiks also said Senger had tested "deceptive" on a polygraph administered by an RCMP officer, and Hartwig refused to take it.

Senger took a second polygraph closer to the start of the Stonechild hearings in September 2003 and failed that one, too, Sabo testified, adding Hartwig refused the polygraph then, as well.

The polygraph evidence was not allowed as evidence at the Stonechild inquiry.

Sabo said he also heard that the polygraph expert for the Saskatoon police, Const. Stan Goertzen, thought the polygraph had not been administered properly. Goertzen is president of the Saskatoon police union.

Inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright found that Hartwig and Senger had Stonechild in their custody the night he went missing, and that he was found frozen to death five days later, on Nov. 30, 1990, with marks on his body that were probably made by handcuffs.

Hartwig and Senger were fired and are appealing that decision. Those hearings will be held in April.

Sabo told hearing officer Murray Hinds on Tuesday that he had the provincial police complaints commission look into Wiks' misleading statements to the newspaper.

The resulting report classified the complaint against Wiks as a public complaint and found it was substantiated.

The report listed two options for Sabo -- remedial action ranging from a verbal reprimand and increasing in severity up to and including firing Wiks, or laying charges under the Police Act, which would include a full public hearing.

Sabo rejected handling the matter confidentially and opted for the full public hearing because the matter was of such grave public concern, he said.

Wiks was not the only member of the police leadership revealed to have given misinformation to the media during the Stonechild inquiry, Sabo said.

Dave Scott, who later became chief of police, told The StarPhoenix in 1991 that "a tremendous amount of work" went into the investigation and police had "pursued every avenue."

Scott admitted at the inquiry the 1990 investigation was incomplete.

Amnesty International had "put a watch on the city" and the inquiry was hearing about missing police notebooks as well, Sabo said.

"The public was left with the impression we were a service with a propensity to say things that were inaccurate, were untrue," Sabo said.

Sabo also felt compelled to have the matter aired publicly because the complaints commission report had suggested Sabo was biased in favour of the police.

The report writer was found to have erred on that count. The report had mistakenly attributed to Sabo a statement made by Goertzen, in which Goertzen said he would be surprised if Wiks deliberately tried to mislead the media.


Charges against Wiks to proceed

The hearing officer at a police disciplinary hearing has rejected attempts by deputy chief Dan Wiks' lawyer to have two charges against him thrown out.

Murray Hinds will begin calling evidence on Feb. 28 into two charges of discreditable conduct arising from statements Wiks made in a StarPhoenix interview about two constables who were suspects in the RCMP investigation into the 1990 freezing death of Neil Stonechild.

Wiks told a reporter in May 2003 the Saskatoon Police Service did not know former constables Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger were suspects in the investigation.

Wiks, a 30-year veteran of the force, also said police had no indication of any police wrongdoing.

He acknowledged while testifying at the Stonechild inquiry that he knew the statements were not accurate.

Stonechild inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright found last month that Hartwig and Senger had the Saulteaux youth in their police cruiser the night he was last seen alive. Stonechild's frozen body was found five days later in Saskatoon's north industrial area bearing marks that were likely caused by handcuffs, Wright found. Hartwig and Senger were fired on Friday.

Richard Danyliuk, Wiks' lawyer, argued Tuesday that the section of the disciplinary regulations upon which one of the complaints against Wiks is based did not apply to oral statements given to the media because the comments did not become part of an official document.

Danyliuk also suggested Wiks was not acting in an official capacity when he gave an interview to former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker while Wiks was acting chief of police.

Hinds disagreed with Danyliuk's reading of the regulations and ruled that the charge would proceed.

Prince Albert lawyer Mitchell Holash, who represents police chief Russell Sabo, was pleased with the ruling.

"We believe that police officers, when they are asked questions as police officers, have a duty under Section 36 of the discipline regulations to answer truthfully to the media and to the general public," Holash said.

Danyliuk also withdrew a previous argument that Sabo had waited too long before laying the disciplinary charges against Wiks.

Holash criticized Danyliuk for making a "stump speech" for the sake of the news media when he complained that Sabo had not provided a statement in the disclosure documents provided to Wiks.

Holash pointed out that Danyliuk had recently agreed to accept "can-say" statements from Sabo and former Saskatoon police chief Jim Mathews. A can-say is a form of statement police routinely provide to criminal defence lawyers. It contains a comprehensive summary of evidence police will testify about while under oath at a hearing.

Hinds ruled the can-say statements would be sufficient and ordered that they be provided to Danyliuk by Dec. 20.

Six witnesses will be called to testify during a week of hearings beginning Feb. 28. Parker, police complaints investigator John Clark, RCMP chief Supt. Darrel McFadyen, Saskatoon police Insp. Keith Atkinson, Mathews and Sabo make up the witness list.

Also on Tuesday, Wiks formally denied the two charges of discreditable conduct.

An "adverse finding" against Wiks could result in the full range of penalty options, including dismissal, Holash said.

Wiks has been on paid administrative leave since March.


Drop charges: Wiks' lawyer
Police chief waited too long to lay charges, lawyer argues

The lawyer for deputy police chief Dan Wiks wants disciplinary charges against Wiks thrown out, saying police Chief Russell Sabo waited too long to lay the charges.

Wiks was charged in September with two counts of discreditable conduct under the Municipal Police Discipline Regulations. Under the regulations, charges must be laid within six months of an allegation of wrongdoing.

The charges arose from Wiks' admission while he testified at the Neil Stonechild inquiry that he knowingly gave incorrect information on the matter to a StarPhoenix reporter in May 2003, before the inquiry began.

Wiks, a 30-year veteran of the Saskatoon Police Service, has been on paid administrative leave since March.

Lawyer Richard Danyliuk argued at the first day of Wiks' disciplinary hearing that Sabo should have had six months from May 2003 to lay the charges because that is when the alleged breach of the regulations should have been discovered.

Instead, Sabo began considering laying the charges after Wiks testified at the inquiry in March 2004.

Wiks testified that he knew two Saskatoon police constables were suspects in the RCMP's 2000 investigation of Stonechild's 1990 freezing death.

Wiks told the inquiry he "misspoke" when he told former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker in May 2003 that the police service did not know constables Brad Senger and Larry Hartwig were suspects in the RCMP investigation.

Wiks also told Parker the constables were not suspended from duty during the investigation because police had no indication of any wrongdoing.

No charges were ever laid against Hartwig or Senger.

On Tuesday, Danyliuk referred hearing officer Murray Hinds to a StarPhoenix news article from March 2004, by reporter Rod Nickel, in which Sabo acknowledged he knew that Hartwig and Senger were suspects long before the May 2003 newspaper article appeared.

Sabo said he didn't catch Wiks' comments in the May 2003 StarPhoenix article because he was then on his own leave and wasn't reading the newspaper.

"First time I saw (the article) was during the inquiry," Sabo was quoted as saying. "I was trying to avoid all of the media during that time."

Danyliuk said Sabo "dropped the ball."

"He essentially was wilfully blind by not reading the paper," Danyliuk said.

Danyliuk suggested Nickel and Sabo be subpoenaed to testify at the disciplinary hearing if a copy of the newspaper article isn't solid enough evidence.

Prince Albert lawyer Mitchell Holash, who represents Saskatoon police, said his clients want testimony into the Wiks interview aired in a public forum.

Rather than have a ruling now on whether the six-month time frame for laying charges prevents a full hearing of the facts, Hinds could choose to hear the evidence supporting the charges before ruling on the timing issue, Holash said.

Danyliuk said Wiks is anxious to have the matter dealt with on its merits, but it is important the law on the timing of the laying of charges be adhered to.

Danyliuk also took exception to the way the charges were worded, saying they do not meet legal requirements.

The matter was adjourned to Nov. 16, when Hinds will hear arguments on whether the charges should proceed.

Sabo declined to comment Tuesday, saying it would not be appropriate because he may be called as a witness, police spokesperson Insp. Jeff Bent said.

The original witness list had six names, indicating more than one day of hearings would be needed to hear the evidence, Danyliuk said.

Penalties for a guilty finding range from remedial action, such as education or counseling, up to dismissal from the force.

Meanwhile, Justice David Wright's report on the Stonechild inquiry is now in the hands of Justice Minister Frank Quennell. It is expected to be released to the public later this month.

Near the end of the inquiry, Wright issued a "notice of potential adverse findings" to Wiks, who was then granted standing and funding to have a lawyer speak on his behalf at closing arguments.

Wiks was the highest ranking current member of the force to testify at the inquiry, which looked into the 1990 death of the 17-year-old Stonechild.

Stonechild's frozen body was found in a field in the north industrial area on Nov. 29, 1990, five days after he went missing.

His friend, Jason Roy, has said he saw Stonechild in police custody the night he went missing.


Senior police officer faces hearing over Stonechild

SASKATOON - Saskatoon Deputy Police Chief Dan Wiks is facing two charges of disreputable conduct under the Police Act.

The charges stem from the inquiry into the death of Neil Stonechild. His frozen body was found on the outskirts of Saskatoon in 1990.

The inquiry is to determine how Stonechild died, and whether Saskatoon Police had any involvement in his death.

Wiks testifed at the inquiry in March and admitted he "misspoke" to reporters about the investigation into Stonechild's death. That admission put Wiks under investigation.

Saskatoon Police Chief Russell Sabo announced the charges against Wiks on Wednesday. Sabo says an open public hearing will be held, and Saskatchewan Justice will appoint a hearing officer.

The final report of the inquiry is expected in late September or early October.


Sabo pledge to openness right move

The job may be akin to trying to turn around an ocean liner in the face of Hurricane Frances, but Saskatoon Police Chief Russ Sabo is doing the right thing to improve his department's image by opening up the disciplinary process for his deputy charged with discreditable conduct.

Deputy chief Dan Wiks has been on administrative leave since he admitted at the Neil Stonechild inquiry in March that he misled the public in May 2003 by making false statements to then StarPhoenix reporter James Parker concerning two city police officers implicated in the Native youth's death.

On Wednesday, Sabo announced that, based on the findings of an independent investigator, he has decided to charge Wiks with two offences under provisions of the Police Act pertaining to discipline rather than opt to proceed by way of remedial action.

"I have concluded that to balance most appropriately the fundamental needs of fairness to deputy Wiks as well as ensure public confidence in the service, this matter should go to a discipline hearing conducted by a hearing officer that will be open to the public, independent and unbiased," Sabo said.

Given the police service's history of strained relations between chiefs and rank-and-file members that extend back decades -- the tenure of Sabo's predecessor, Dave Scott, was a rare interlude of relative peace -- inevitable accusations will arise that Sabo is playing politics by making Wiks the sacrificial goat to appease the media, and a Native community upset over a cavalier police attitude to investigating Stonechild's death.

When Sabo placed Wiks on administrative leave over his admission to commissioner Justice David Wright to signal that he was treating accusations of police misconduct as a serious matter, police association president Stan Goertzen's response was disheartening.

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

Condensed in that statement was the attitude that permeates this police department, and it's one that will take a long time for anyone to turn around.

Even though the senior officer had admitted under oath and under pressure from Justice Wright that he had made false statements to a reporter and was admonished by the commissioner that the police have an obligation properly to inform the public by being forthright with the media, Goertzen simply didn't get it.

The best he could muster up was that Wiks "possibly" should have been clearer, even though testimony at the inquiry showed that senior police actually had formed a strategy committee whose minutes indicated one of the goals was to mislead the public by lying to the media about the service status of the two cops under RCMP investigation.

Also clear from the Stonechild inquiry was that former police chief Scott, who was media relations officer at the time of Stonechild's 1990 death, also had stretched the truth beyond any recognizable point when he told former StarPhoenix reporter Terry Craig that police had done a thorough investigation and pursued every avenue into the youth's death.

Many of the senior officers involved with the strategy group are still within the service that Sabo wants to turn into a more open and accountable institution. Of course he's likely to face resistance from all ranks because what he's proposing is a fundamental shift in the culture of the downtown blue fortress.

While it's easy to argue that people in all walks of life, from used car salespeople to politicians, varnish the truth now and then and may even mislead people on occasion, it's an entirely different matter when it comes to having the people we entrust as our guardians and empower even to take lives when they deem it unavoidable, adopt the attitude they are accountable to no one but themselves.

In Sabo opening up the Wiks hearing to the public, we may well find out that the deputy chief wasn't alone in uttering some nose-stretchers when dealing with the media and even that it's routine for police officers to manipulate the public with misleading statements about themselves and their investigations.

Yet, for the Saskatoon police service to regain its credibility after what's been a difficult few years, it's imperative that it shed its image as a secretive enclave and demonstrate its willingness to be accountable to the citizens it's meant to serve. Good on Sabo for making the effort to turn around his rickety barge in troubled waters.


Somewhat short of the truth

Let me just say at the outset that if I had a dollar for every time a public official has told me something less than the truth, I would be living on Maui right now.

The Oxford Canadian dictionary defines a lie as "an intentionally false statement." Wiks description of his statements is that he "misspoke." However it's defined, it's safe to say Wiks's remarks did not responsibly reflect objective reality.

For this, he will be forced to appear before a discipline hearing where he could well wind up facing sanctions ranging from a reprimand to dismissal from the force. If so, it will be an ignominious end to a 30-year career. However, he should have known the risks were high, given that an inquiry was in the offing.

When the StarPhoenix called him in May of 2003, the paper wanted to know why two police officers under investigation by the RCMP in connection to Neil Stonechild's death had not been suspended. Wiks replied the police would not suspend anyone without some indication of wrongdoing, which they didn't have.

He later admitted under oath before the Stonechild inquiry that the Saskatoon Police Service was aware that Bradley Senger and Larry Hartwig were both RCMP suspects in the case. What's more, the police had devised a deliberate strategy in which officers discussed the possibility of being able to respect the inquiry process but not the media.

The police somehow managed to forget that in most instances, the media is representing the public in matters of critical interest to a broad audience.

Sabo is absolutely right when he says the public deserves more accountability from the police service than this. Society grants the police special powers of apprehension, arrest and even deadly force. Such powers demand a commensurate level of responsibility.

At the same time, Sabo could have simply disciplined Wiks without the show trial and moved on.

There's a theory alive within the police force that Sabo has taken this action to further separate himself in the public mind from the so-called "old guard" within the police service.

Hanging Wiks out to dry in public sends two messages that are very useful to Sabo. The main one is to reassure the public and the Native community that Sabo takes both their interests and his role very seriously.

The second, internal message is to the police service that there is a new sheriff in town who is not at all shy about leaving a few bodies in his wake.

Sabo says he has opted for charges rather than "remedial action" because he wants to ensure public confidence in the force is maintained. If so, then he ought to see to it that this amounts to more than a public flogging of his deputy chief.

There are some questions that it would be nice to hear the answers to, including:

- If Wiks did deliberately lie to the media, why did he do it?

- Did Wiks act alone in his communications with the press or was he following orders?

- Was this an isolated instance, or do the police routinely lie to the media when it suits their interests?

Sabo obviously wants to send a message to the police service that lying to the public will not be tolerated under any circumstances. If so, then it would be useful to hear how he intends to spell that out in police policy, and how it will be enforced.

For example, if there are any circumstances in which a lie is acceptable, then what are they? Secondly, when Sabo or anyone else within the police service sees a police spokesperson publicly telling an untruth, what action will they be required to take?

I predict we'll hear precious little about how things will change in the future as a result of the Wiks affair.

And without answers to these kinds of questions, the political aspects of this story will loom much larger.


Deputy chief charged
Wiks faces two counts of discreditable conduct

Russell Sabo

Saskatoon deputy police chief Daniel Wiks faces two counts of discreditable conduct over misleading statements he made in a StarPhoenix interview last year prior to the start of the Neil Stonechild inquiry.

Wiks is charged with offences under two sections of the Municipal Police Discipline Regulations, police Chief Russell Sabo told a news conference Wednesday.

Wiks has been on paid administrative leave since March, after he acknowledged while testifying at the inquiry that he gave incorrect information to former StarPhoenix reporter James Parker in a May 2003 interview.

When asked why constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger had not been suspended while RCMP investigated their possible involvement in Stonechild's 1990 freezing death, Wiks replied, "the only reason we would suspend somebody is if we had some indication that there was some wrongdoing. We had no indication of that whatsoever. And we still don't."

Wiks said the quotations were accurate. He told the inquiry, however, that the police service did have "significant evidence" since June 2000 that RCMP had found there was a possibility that Hartwig and Senger had Stonechild in their car the night he went missing.

Elsewhere in the same article, Wiks said the department did not know Hartwig and Senger were considered suspects.

Wiks acknowledged at the inquiry that he was aware the RCMP were looking into an allegation by Stonechild's friend, Jason Roy, that he had seen Stonechild the night he went missing in the back of a police cruiser, handcuffed and bleeding and screaming, "they're gonna kill me."

Sabo said Wednesday he decided to lay the charges based on findings of an independent investigator. He chose to lay the charges, rather than "proceeding by way of remedial action," in the interest of openness and transparency, he said.

The matter will now be referred to a hearing officer. The hearings will be open to the public, Sabo said, though he did not indicate when they will be heard.

"I have concluded that to balance most appropriately the fundamental needs of fairness to deputy chief Wiks as well as ensuring public confidence in the service, this matter should go to a discipline hearing conducted by a hearing officer that will be open to the public, independent, fair and unbiased," Sabo said.

The Police Act provides a broad range of penalties ranging from remedial action, such as education or counselling, to dismissal from the force.

It usually takes two to four weeks for a hearing officer to be appointed, Wiks' lawyer Richard Danyliuk said Wednesday.

A hearing date would be set sometime after that, hopefully before Christmas, Danyliuk said.

After almost six months of being on administrative leave, Wiks is pleased that the matter is finally progressing, Danyliuk said.

"He's got pretty much an exemplary service record so in light of that and in light of giving faithful service to the police force for 30 years, he obviously would like to have this dealt with," Danyliuk said.

Danyliuk said he is surprised by the wording of one the charges, which alleges Wiks "wilfully" made a misleading statement considering the investigator reported that he could not establish that Wiks intentionally misled the reporter.

"Given that that's his finding, it's a little surprising to find a charge alleging he was wilful or did act with intention," Danyliuk said.

Don Worme, the lawyer for Stonechild's family, said it is important that people in positions of authority be held accountable for their actions.

"It's unfortunate that these kinds of things have happened but I think it is also appropriate that people be called to answer for this kind of conduct if we are to have the kind of community our children deserve."

The charges are "awfully small comfort" for Stonechild's family, who were rebuffed by the police when they questioned the investigation soon after it happened, Worme said.

Inquiry commissioner Justice David Wright is expected to submit his report to the minister of justice before the end of October, said Candace Congram, executive director of the inquiry.

Near the end of the inquiry, Wright issued a "notice of potential adverse findings" to Wiks, who was then granted standing and funding to have a lawyer speak on his behalf at closing arguments.

Wiks was the highest ranking current member of the force to testify at the inquiry, which looked into the death of the 17-year-old Saulteaux youth.

Stonechild's body was found in a field in the north industrial area on Nov. 29, 1990, five days after he went missing from his Confederation Park neighbourhood.

After a brief, three-day investigation, the death was ruled an accident by then-sergeant Keith Jarvis, who speculated the 17-year-old was attempting to walk to the adult jail to turn himself in but that he wandered around, drunk and lost, until he froze to death.

Jarvis did not find out how Stonechild arrived at the site, about nine kilometres from where he was last seen alive.

The investigation was criticized on the front page of the StarPhoenix three months later, in March 1991, by Stonechild's mother, Stella Bignell, who said the investigation would have been more thorough if Neil had been the mayor's son.

The complaint was dismissed by then media liaison officer, Dave Scott, who later became chief of police. Scott told a reporter that police had done a thorough investigation and had "pursued every avenue."


Saskatoon police official facing charges

Saskatoon's deputy police chief is facing two charges of disreputable conduct related to the Neil Stonechild inquiry.

Dan Wiks testified at the inquiry in March. He's since been on administrative leave. He allegedly made misleading comments to the media about the investigation into Stonechild's November 1990 death.

Chief Russell Sabo of the Saskatoon Police Service said an open public hearing into the Police Act charges will be held. Saskatchewan Justice will appoint a hearing officer for the case.

Stonechild was last seen alive while struggling with two Saskatoon Police officers before being loaded into the back of a cruiser.

He was later found frozen to death outside Saskatoon.

It is suspected the officers dropped him off outside the city -- something the police denied.

However, there have been other cases of native men being found frozen to death outside Saskatoon.

One man, Darrell Night, survived the experience. Two officers were convicted of unlawful confinement in his case, fired and sentenced to eight months in jail.

A Conservative MP, Maurice Vellacott of Saskatoon-Wanuskewin, claimed to have evidence that might have led to an acquittal. But Frank Quennell, Saskatchewan's justice minister, said he saw no reason to re-open the case.

The inquiry, however, is only looking into the circumstances surrounding Stonechild's death.

It wrapped up hearing evidence in mid-May. A report is expected sometime in October.

Although the Stonechild inquiry isn't charged with assigning blame in the case, Commissioner David Wright will be able to make recommendations.

Among the ideas expected to be included when the final report is made public later this summer, is the creation of a First Nations Police Force designed to improve strained relations between police and the city's aboriginal community.


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.

Deputy Chief Dan Wiks and Superintendamt Brian Dueck at sod turning for new brief detox center at Larson House Aug 2004

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.