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…
SASKATOON -- When the Saskatchewan government releases an inquiry report today into the death of a native teenager, the results are not expected to flatter the Saskatoon Police Service.
The $2-million inquiry heard conflicting testimony about whether police officers were involved in the death of Neil Stonechild, 17, whose frozen body was found on the outskirts of the city in November, 1990.
The evidence was less ambiguous about the behaviour of investigators at the time, whose probe of the death was described as quick, shoddy and possibly tainted by racism.
Officers in Saskatoon have spent years trying to shake the impression that they treat natives badly, as the department endured international publicity over several aboriginals who froze to death and persistent accusations that officers sometimes picked up trouble-makers for so-called "starlight tours" and dropped them in remote areas.
Police spokesman Inspector Jeff Bent said yesterday the Saskatoon force is "dramatically different" than it was in 1990, partly because the vast majority of officers have received four-day cultural-diversity training over the past few years.
But the force sometimes went too far as it responded to concerns about racism in the years since Neil Stonechild's death, said Sergeant Stan Goertzen, president of the Saskatoon City Police Association.
"We're possibly the most culturally sensitive force in Canada right now, with everything we've been through," he said. "Now I think we're probably overly sensitive in some cases. We still have a job to do as police officers, and just because we're dealing with somebody who is of a different race or ethnicity or anything else, they all have to be treated the same."
As a hypothetical example, Sgt. Goertzen said an officer might stop a native driver and discover that the person has outstanding warrants.
"Because you're of a different race or a different ethnicity, you might start claiming, 'Oh, this is prejudiced, you wouldn't have stopped me, you wouldn't have done this, you wouldn't have done that.' And then I get a hold of my supervisor and my supervisor says, 'Let them go.' "
On the other side of town, Jim Maddin sipped his coffee and shook his head.
"I don't know that it's getting any better," he said, referring to racism within the force. "It's a slow process. There are still people down there who are stuck in the mud."
Mr. Maddin served as a Saskatoon police officer for more than two decades before becoming a city councillor and later mayor.
He helped set up the city's first community policing station in 1993 to reach out to a troubled downtown neighbourhood. During his stint as mayor, he shook up the police commission by adding two civilians to the five members of the board and inviting a female aboriginal lawyer to chair it.
Mr. Maddin's policing station has since closed. He was soundly defeated in last year's election. The new mayor dropped the two extra civilians from the police board.
But on a more optimistic note, Mr. Maddin said, a new community policing station has been built on the site of an old gas station just down the street from the original station.
Such initiatives might help police improve their awful reputation, Mr. Maddin said, but perhaps the only solution is to wait until the old guard is replaced by new recruits. "It might take a generation to move beyond the ugliness," he said.
Mr. Stonechild is among three natives who froze to death under suspicious circumstances in Saskatoon over the past 15 years. Two inquests have proven inconclusive, but the case of a fourth man who survived a bitterly cold night outside resulted in convictions against two police officers who were fired and jailed.
Two visions of policing and eras of city government collided over the direction of Saskatoon Police Service, as former mayor Jim Maddin publicly challenged his successor's reform plans Monday.
In an unusual step, the former mayor showed up at a council meeting to question its direction.
However, Mayor Don Atchison and the new city council passed on any opportunity to question Maddin or to make their own counter-points.
Following Maddin's five-minute presentation, council moved to the next agenda item in seconds, receiving the former mayor's concerns as information.
Perhaps Maddin's most significant action in his three years as mayor was to adopt a community policing model, which police chief Dave Scott didn't accept, leading to the latter's termination in 2001.
"It will work, given half a chance," Maddin told council. He added however, that he wonders if it will get that chance, saying city police association president Stan Goertzen has called community policing "window-dressing."
Maddin also took aim at Atchison for saying police officers shouldn't be forced to act as social workers.
"I would say police work is indeed social in nature," he said. "The name is Saskatoon Police Service, not just enforcers. I'll tell you what they're not. They're not judge, jury and executioner."
Maddin urged council not to reduce the number of civilians on the commission, as Atchison has promised to do, saying they provide an important voice.
Atchison has promised a zero-tolerance approach to policing, including a crackdown on crimes like vandalism and assault to send a message to "thugs." He also wants to close the Little Chief community station in Riversdale and get more officers on the street.
Following his presentation, Maddin said he doesn't plan to advise council regularly.
"I just don't want them to throw the baby out with the bathwater."
Both Maddin and Atchison seem to inspire dramatic reactions to their policing visions.
Former police commission chair Leanne Bellegarde Daniels recently resigned her post, saying Atchison's plans will lead to conflict with aboriginal people and bristling at his public statements about assuming leadership of the commission.
During Maddin's term, police officers held no-confidence votes on Chief Russell Sabo and the police commission.
Coun. Myles Heidt, the one remaining elected official on the police commission from the Maddin era, said before the meeting that he hopes to be on the commission next year, although he disagrees with Atchison's vision.
"We need someone with experience on there," he said. "Policing is a challenge in all communities, but we have to try a different approach and I think that's what we've done.
"The kick-ass cops days are gone. That doesn't work."
Heidt supports keeping the Little Chief station open and starting up a second satellite station in Sutherland, Atchison's former council ward.
He suggests that Atchison will need to inspire co-operation from other police commission members and senior police administration to make the kind of sweeping changes he intends.
"You don't run the day-to-day operations (on the commission). You set policy. If they don't implement your policy, you have other options," he said, referring to Scott's dismissal.
Sabo has expressed optimism about working with Atchison, along with a desire to brief the mayor more fully on policing.
Officials with the city police association could not be reached for comment.
The commission, including new members Atchison and Coun. Donna Birkmaier, meets for the first time on Thursday.
The first task will be appointing a new chair, a position Atchison has promised to hold.
The dispossessed of this town have been soundly trounced by those who possess it all. Mayor Maddin made a difference. For three years we had the small hope that we would get a fair shake.
Arresting window-breakers and whitewashing graffiti is not going to solve our social problems.
50% of citizens actually came and voted. Many, it would seem were stirred to protect the sanctity of the white race. It is always a challenge to change the mind of a racist. However, it was done in Mississsippi and it can be done here, too.
Atchison says on the one hand that he represents all the people of Saskatoon and on the other hand that he is glad the Native people will have a place to go to other than downtown (the Whitecap reserve which is developing at the north edge of the city). Developers are being invited to make proposals for a lily white downtown development.
It is time the university community got involved. Surely the educated people in the city understand that there can be no peace between an elite which hordes riches and knowledge and those who are denied access to education. The scary gangs that Atchison promises to protect the privileged from are our own kids, denied education and resources for the las 15 years, and kids who have moved in from the reserves, looking for something different from what they were leaving. Some are even lured by the promise of excitement.
There is going to be excitement, all right, but the new administration will have a lot to say about just form that excitement will take. We are here, poised in the west end, and we are not going away.
--Sheila Steele, November 2003
Mayor Jim Maddin suggests the police association disregard his critical remarks later this month when a mediator attempts to settle the feud.
"What I've said in recent days, I've come at not as a board member but wearing my other, larger, hat -- that of mayor of the city and representative of the people and the public interest," Maddin said. "If I am a party to any discussions with the union as a board member, there need not be any reference to things I've said to this point as mayor."
The association agreed last week to use a third party to find resolutions to some problems it has with police Chief Russell Sabo and with the board of police commissioners, of which Maddin is vice-chief. A date for the first session hasn't been set.
Sabo said Wednesday he's prepared to open the doors at the Saskatoon Police Service for an inquiry, if it's deemed necessary.
On Tuesday, the police association said it plans to talk to Justice Minister Eric Cline about an inquiry to fix some of the problems.
Sabo told Global Television an inquiry would be "acceptable" if it's in the interest of ensuring public confidence in police officers.
Leanne Bellegarde Daniels, chair of the commission, doesn't believe the heated exchanges can be ignored, but doesn't blame Maddin for speaking his mind as mayor.
"Certainly, though, I wouldn't be surprised if the views of the mayor or past views of the (commission) board . . . will be things that will be part of what needs to be addressed. That's why a facilitator is very useful," she said. "Each side will be able to bring those matters forward to try to work through them in a helpful way."
She cited the difficulty Maddin has trying to vacate his commission role when speaking as mayor.
"As the mayor of the city he is responsible for all employee matters. That's just the reality," she said. "There are never clear lines drawn but we try to have some protocol for handling communications and that's why I speak on behalf of the board."
Maddin has accused the association this past week of being hypocritical by maintaining a shroud around their complaints. Association president Stan Goertzen (right) has said officers are unhappy with staffing levels, training, public safety, health issues and Sabo's management style. He also said officers are relying more on prescription drugs, as stress levels increase and morale plummets.
But he won't give detail, saying it is an internal matter.
Maddin has been quick to note how the union denounced the commission weeks earlier for its covert handling of harassment complaints against Sabo. The union was equally vocal in its call for a confidence vote into the commission and chief.
As far as mediation goes, "my comments shouldn't have any detrimental impact," Maddin said Wednesday. "If we sit at the table with some intelligence and common objectives to finding solutions, it should be positive from here on. I'm thinking it can't get much more negative."
Goertzen took the high road Wednesday.
"I'm not going to say anything because I want this (mediation) to go ahead and I want some solutions," he said, but couldn't resist taking a shot at Maddin. "I don't need to say anything (because) I'm not the one trying to get re-elected."
SASKATOON -- Mayor Jim Maddin challenged the Saskatoon Police Association to "come clean" about its problems with Police Chief Russell Sabo, a few days after 90% of union members indicated they have no confidence in the chief.
"I want public disclosure," a frustrated Maddin said Sunday in an interview, in which he also suggested the union wants the right to manage the police force.
"The union has come forward in a very bold manner with this confidence vote publicly. I want to challenge them to stay public and identify their concerns and tell us why this board and this chief have failed them so miserably."
Maddin, who's also a member of the board of police commissioners, phoned the StarPhoenix with his concerns. He intends to write an open letter to the police association to be published in the newspaper.
Maddin said the right of management to run the police service has been eroded over time. He urged the association to be part of the solution, "not just bitchers and whiners and complainers".
"If they want to be involved in the management of the police service, step up to the plate and participate with a little less aggression and a little less confrontation, I think maybe we would could get somewhere."
More than 84% of the union's 380 members cast ballots in the confidence vote. Last Wednesday, the association revealed that 90% voted 'No' when asked if they had confidence in Sabo. Ninety-five per cent had no confidence in the board of police commissioners.
On Friday, Sabo, the police commission and the police association met and decided to ask a mediator to help settle their differences.
Association president Stan Goertzen said then that officers are unhappy with staffing levels, training, public safety, health issues, and Sabo's management style. He also told reporters that police officers are relying more and more on prescription drugs as stress levels increase and morale plummets.
Maddin said the union should provide more detail about their concerns so the public can determine whether they are legitimate, even though Sabo, Goertzen and police commission chair Leanne Bellegarde Daniels agreed the issues would be treated as an internal matter.
The mayor accused some within the association of wanting to keep the police service under a cloud of darkness and suspicion. Goertzen could not be reached for comment Sunday.
The force has been rocked by publicity surrounding an unlawful confinement case which resulted in the convictions of two officers and charges of racism. In addition, Sabo only recently returned to work after an investigation into sexual-harassment allegations.
Maddin, who served 25 years on the force and retired as human resources superintendent, suggested opposition to Sabo is related to the fact the chief wants the police service to change how it does business. He is a strong proponent of community policing, a concept the union views with skepticism.
Maddin, who will seek a second term as mayor in the Oct. 22 civic election, said the police association has a long history of resisting change.
"I have an idea of the dynamics and I know some of the personalities involved," said the mayor.
"There have been a number of valuable programs that have been resisted and opposed by the police union, including community police stations, victim services, bike patrols, foot patrols, the utilization of special constables, aboriginal relations officers, and the all-encompassing community policing."