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Dan Hatchen & Ken Munson

Vellacott establishes defence fund for ex-cops

Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen

A legal defence fund has been established to help disgraced former city police officers Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen fight to have their case reopened and their names cleared.

But the lawyer for Darrell Night, the aboriginal man whose complaint led to Munson's and Hatchen's 2001 convictions for unlawful confinement, laughed at the notion that the ex-officers were, in their words, seeking justice.

Don Worme

"Perhaps those monies, at the end of the day, can go toward compensating Mr. Night for the trauma that these individuals ultimately were convicted of," said Don Worme (right).

"I have no idea what they're trying to do. There is no legal process for them. They went to the Court of Appeal and it rejected whatever they attempted to put forward. It's simply wrong and their continued whining is not going to change that."

The Munson-Hatchen defence fund was publicly launched on the steps of the Saskatoon Queen's Bench courthouse Thursday. Saskatoon Conservative MP Maurice Vellacott, who has been calling for the case to be reopened, held a press conference to announce the fund, which has raised $1,586.

It is a grassroots campaign that began gaining momentum before a public appeal was considered, Vellacott said.

He called the donors "a good many anonymous and unnamed people -- heroes if you will."

Maurice Vellacott

Hatchen, who attended the announcement, said he is willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court of Canada, which he said "is a little more removed from the situation and might have a clearer view" than the provincial courts.

But MP Maurice Vellacott (right) is confident there will be no need to have the country's highest court involved. Earlier this month, the RCMP said they would look into Vellacott's claims of new evidence and decide if the case should be reopened.

"We may not have to be in this for the long haul, but we're certainly prepared for that," Vellacott said. "There may very well be a reopening and a new trial or an acquittal long before it has to get to that."

Hatchen compared the last 4½ years to "a runaway roller coaster" for his family, during which "despair loomed darkly in our hearts." The smallest tokens of support from friends and strangers provided "rays of sunlight that helped us make it through and give me hope yet today," he said.

Vellacott also read a letter on behalf of Munson, who wasn't at the press conference. In it, the former constable thanked people for their kindness and hoped for "more truth and understanding to repair mistakes that have been made.

"Race relations in Saskatoon are in somewhat of a mess. There are some people who would feel I had a big part in that. That may be so or it may not be so, but one thing I would like to offer now is my participation in helping rebuild these bridges . . . and more specifically, in my circumstance, with Darrell Night. My hand is outstretched."

Worme questioned why Hatchen is so willing to talk at this late stage, adding some harsh words for Vellacott.

"I find it very disappointing that the Reform-Conservative-Alliance would continue to use public money to defend common criminals and foster division in our community. If this is their idea of bridge building it's certainly different than what most right-thinking people would consider."

The list of contributors to the fund to date includes former Saskatoon police chief Dave Scott and his wife, Colleen. Scott was fired in 2001 at the height of allegations that officers were dropping aboriginal people off at the edge of the city in freezing weather.

Although the police were cleared of any connection to the bodies of young Native men found in the snow by the Queen Elizabeth Power Station, Night said the same thing happened to him in January 2000 but he survived.

At the trial, Night testified he was arrested for public intoxication but instead of being taken to the police station and charged, he was dropped off without discussion and against his will in freezing weather far from home.

Vellacott says in a letter on the case to the RCMP that Night was picked up for disturbing the peace but pleaded with the police not to charge him.

In court, Hatchen and Munson testified they were reluctant to take him directly home because, based on their experience, they would soon be called back, Vellacott notes in his letter. Vellacott says Night then told them to leave him to walk off his anger.

Vellacott has said he has people ready to testify that Night was staying in an apartment a couple of kilometres from the power plant where he was dropped off.

"We believe that truth, over time, will come out," Vellacott said Thursday, adding the men admit to making an error in judgment by leaving Night there but it should have been no more than an internal disciplinary matter.

While the officers later admitted to picking Night up and dropping him off, none of it was against Night's will, said Hatchen.

"That makes all the difference," Munson said. "(But) there was a conversation that went on between Darrell Night and ourselves that seems to be forgotten."

The Criminal Code allows a police officer or riot squad to remove somebody from the scene of a disturbance for up to 24 hours.

"That's the current provision and that's the parameters in which they were acting as police have all across this country. Saskatchewan is not exempt from that," Vellacott said.

"If you go with the code as it is, these men should have been acquitted."

Hatchen is now a computer consultant while Munson has done odd jobs, such as renovation projects. Asked if he would ultimately like to return to the police force, Hatchen said, "This is way too early to tell. I'm going to let the chips fall where they do."

In Saskatoon cases often happen in pairs. In the early 90s the Martensville and Foster parent cases both concerned allegations of Satanic ritual abuse. Sweeping publication bans resulted in only the most salacious details being reported and even in Saskatoon many thought they were the same case. It was not until the turn of the new century that the cone of silence was lifted and the public was given enough information to sort things out.

Then two pairs of Saskatoon policemen were fired in connection with completely separate occasions of driving aboriginal men to the edge of town to freeze. These cases are very different as well.

In the case of Hatchen and Munson, (this page) the two were recalcitrant as they went to trial. Many police in full uniform came to court. They lied on the stand. There was clear evidence they had taken Darrell Night to the edge of town but they were not sorry.

The other case, involving Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger is somewhat different. They were fired after the Stonechild Inquiry determined that many cops' credibility was in question and Judge Wright was left with no recource but to place these two as the last known to have seen Neil Stonechild alive. Chief Sabo then had no choice but to fire them. -- Sheila Steele

Kudos to convicted cops a 'callous joke': lawyer

The lawyer for Darrell Night, who was abandoned in freezing weather by two Saskatoon police officers, is disappointed to see that the police department acknowledged the pair in its 2001 annual report, which is posted on the Internet.

Former constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson are listed on a page of the Saskatoon Police Service Web site that acknowledges 15 former members "for their years of service."

Each served 17 years with the force.

"I think that that's a very callous joke," said Don Worme who represents Night. Night complained in January 2000 that the officers had taken him to a field on the city's western outskirts and left him there in sub-zero weather.

The pair were convicted of forcible confinement and sentenced to eight month jail terms. Both were fired in 2001. They were released from a halfway house in August.

The issue was raised by Richard Klassen, a co-founder of Injustice Busters Web site. Klassen is currently awaiting a decision on his lawsuit against former police and justice officials for malicious prosecution. Klassen and his family were charged in 1991 with sexually assaulting nine foster children.

"These two ex-cons should be deleted from this Web site right away," Klassen wrote in an e-mail to police and forwarded to The StarPhoenix.

Klassen's Injustice Buster colleague, Angie Geworsky, also wrote to Insp. Lorne Constantinoff, the public relations officer for the police, that the Web site should make clear that Hatchen and Munson were fired for their misconduct.

Listing them along with members who retired in good standing or who left to further their careers, "as if there is no distinction . . . could taint the images" of the other officers, she wrote.

Constantinoff said Tuesday Hatchen and Munson were not given recognition per se. Instead, they are among former members whose years of service were, "acknowledged, not recognized or congratulated," within the 2001 annual report, which is an historic record of that year's operations, he said.

That annual report was originally produced on paper and distributed widely.

"To change one (report) would mean changing documented history, and we're not in the practice of doing that. We also acknowledge on that same annual report that there were two officers that were charged," Constantinoff said.

"I understand their (Klassen's and Geworsky's) point of view. We're not proud of the fact that these were members of our police service but we acknowledge that they were.

People should not forget that the pair were members of the police service, he said.

"I know how it could seem, how they could be offended. But that is not our intent to offend anyone," Constantinoff said.

Night's complaint against Munson and Hatchen was reported nationally and internationally because two other aboriginal men, Lawrence Wegner and Rodney Naistus, were found frozen to death in the same area within days of the Night incident.

Suspicion fell on the Saskatoon police service. The RCMP created a special task force to investigate the deaths of several aboriginal men who may have had contact with police before they died.

The task force investigation resulted in the charges against Hatchen and Munson but no others.

Inquests were held to examine the circumstances around several of the deaths and a broader-ranging public inquiry was called into the 1990 freezing death of Neil Stonechild.

The latter is currently adjourned to Jan. 5, 2004.

The controversy also attracted the attention of Amnesty International, which included the allegations in a list of human rights abuses around the world.

Worme considers the recognition given the officers "really odd . . . considering these were the same two who brought such a dark light on our city."

"Amnesty International, for the first time ever, indicated Canada among the world's human rights abusers, and, in particular, those officers were given that sort of dubious distinction and now, in an obvious attempt to rehabilitate them, they are being recognized for their 17 years of service," Don Worme said.