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Inquiry into freezing death of Neil Stonechild

Investigation incomplete, Scott says

Neil Stonechild

Dave Scott, former media relations officer for the Saskatoon police, didn't think Neil Stonechild's mother's public allegation of racism by the police was a grave enough concern to take to the chief of police.

Scott, who later became chief of police himself, testified Thursday at the inquiry looking into the 1990 freezing death of the 17-year-old Saulteaux youth that he now thinks the investigation was incomplete.

Numerous witnesses at the inquiry, now in its seventh week, have declared that the investigation failed to answer basic questions or rule out the possibility of foul play.

Scott agrees.

Police Chief David Scott

"There could have been more work done on the investigation," Scott said. He acknowledged that the circumstances should have raised questions about how Stonechild got to the field.

David Scott (right) was the police chief in 2000 when allegations arose that Saskatoon police sometimes abandoned intoxicated aboriginal troublemakers on the outskirts of the city. He requested the RCMP do an independent investigation.

That task force investigation included the 10-year-old Stonechild case, in which police closed the file without finding out how the teenager got to a field in the north industrial area where his body was found, after less than three day's investigation and without ruling out foul play.

Jason Roy

Stonechild's friend, Jason Roy (right), had told people he saw Stonechild the night he went missing, in a police car, bloody and handcuffed and screaming, "they're gonna kill me."

The RCMP investigation did not result in any charges but led to the current inquiry.

On Thursday, Scott took a similar position to several other police and former police who have testified at the inquiry: he has no independent memory of the Stonechild file, he fulfilled his job description and can't recall having any curiosity about how the youth got to where his body was found on Nov. 29, 1990.

Scott was questioned, in particular, about a March 1991 StarPhoenix article in which Stonechild's family complained about the investigation.

Scott was quoted in the article saying police had done a thorough investigation and had "pursued every avenue."

Asked Thursday where he would have gotten information to state that "a tremendous amount of work" went into the investigation, Scott said he probably asked the investigator, then-sergeant Keith Jarvis or Jarvis's supervisor, then-staff sergeant Bud Johnson.

As the media relations officer, Scott said he didn't read files he commented on because he didn't want to be privy to information that was being withheld by the investigator.

The newspaper article stated that Scott pointed to a "hefty file" when answering questions about the Stonechild investigation.

The file probably was not the Stonechild file, Scott said.

He surmised that then-StarPhoenix reporter Terry Craig may have been referring to a file of Crime Stoppers information or another of daily occurrences from the past 24 hours, which he always kept on his desk when briefing the media.

Scott agreed the allegation by Stonechild's mother, Stella Bignell, was very serious, when she said that the investigation would have been more thorough if the victim had been the mayor's son, but Scott didn't think it was serious enough that he would have read through the file himself to see if it had been investigated thoroughly.

Joe Penkala

Nor did he think the racism allegation warranted his discussing the matter with then chief of police, Joe Penkala (right).

"I was always very sensitive to any allegation of racism related to the Saskatoon Police Service," Scott told Drew Plaxton, lawyer for the police union.

"When things concerned me, I did talk to people about those concerns," Scott said.

"I can't recall having any concerns on this file," Scott answered Plaxton a few minutes later.

Scott said he attended daily morning meetings with senior police executive to brief them on his work but he didn't necessarily brief them on everything.

Asked whether he told the executive about the Stonechild matter, Scott said, "it's hard to say. I may have, I may not have."

The inquiry previously heard Penkala say he was unaware of the Stonechild death and all of the news coverage of it.

Penkala has said he was also unaware of the March 1991 article that criticized the investigation. He said no one told him about it.

Scott denied he deliberately suppressed information about the Stonechild case or any other case.

Plaxton said Jim Maddin, a former police officer who later became the mayor of Saskatoon, will testify that between 1990 and 1992 there was discussion within the police department that police may have been involved in Stonechild's death.

Scott said he had absolutely no knowledge of such rumour or discussion. Any officer who heard such a thing should have reported it to his superiors, as required by the Saskatchewan Police Act, Scott said.

Plaxton also said Maddin will say there were groups within the Saskatoon Police Service that may have "kept information contained."

Scott said he understood that to mean that investigators keep some information secret so as not to tip off others, such as in a planned prostitution sting.

Scott also acknowledged he knows of one other incident, in which an officer put his loyalty for another officer before his obligation to uphold the law.

Scott was also questioned about how, in January 2000, he handled the allegation by Darrell Night that two officers abandoned him near the Queen Elizabeth Power plant.

Scott heard about it on a Saturday and by the following Monday constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson came to him and admitted they had done it.

Scott said he suspended them immediately.

Hatchen and Munson were eventually convicted of unlawful confinement in the Night case, were sentenced to eight-month jail terms and were fired from the force.

In cross-examination, Si Halyk, lawyer for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, said that on the Monday when Hatchen and Munson made their admission, Scott phoned Night and asked him if he would participate in a healing circle with the officers.

Scott said he did not remember phoning Night.

Halyk accused Scott of trying to "make it go away," referring to Night's complaint.

Scott denied that.

Halyk asked Scott if there was any truth to allegations that Scott had twice abandoned persons on the city outskirts beyond a cemetery past Eighth Street.

Scott absolutely denied the allegation.

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