The perception abroad in Saskatoon is that Mayor Jim Maddin is en route to becoming a one-term mayor. The idea is that the public is so deeply offended, so irrevocably outraged over the firing of former police chief Dave Scott that revenge at the polls is inevitable.
Scott's legions of supporters say they'll see to it that Maddin is turfed if he and the rest of the police commission don't recant or resign.
They seem to think they're dealing with a pussycat that's going to roll over and play dead at the first sign of trouble. Based on Maddin's performance in his first eight months in office, it's not hard to see why. For a politician, he is a man of relatively few words, given to one or two sentence answers to questions that beg paragraphs. As a result, Maddin often seems tentative in his public pronouncements, which lends him an air of uncertainty, even when he's sure of a particular course of action.
Even in announcing the biggest decision of his tenure to date, Maddin couldn't find the words to be specific about why Scott was being gunned, helping to create the surge of opposition to Scott's dismissal.
Under pressure though, it's a different story. In rebutting the calls for his head Monday night, Maddin made a detailed and forceful rebuttal in answer to the various conspiracy theories floating around Scott's demise.
In contrast to the vague generalities about a vision of community policing he expressed three weeks ago, Maddin laid out a litany of complaints the police commission had about Scott's performance.
The picture Maddin paints is of a chief that either wouldn't take direction or went out of his way to subvert the will of the police commission. As the public record shows, if there were issues of budget constraint to deal with, the first things to go were always community policing initiatives.
Three different community police stations failed, the bicycle patrol is scheduled to die at the end of this year, and nothing was happening on the board's request for the reinstatement of foot patrols.
The board of police commissioners wanted new priorities established, a review of existing programs and resources and ways found to increase the numbers of officers on the street. What they got back was stonewalling and delay, Maddin says.
"We had very simple, two-sentence requests to them that came back to us for further clarification and it was believed by some members, to be quite honest about it, that this was an attempt simply to manipulate the board and to stall.
"The only solution offered by the administration was a typical response: give us more money, more money."
Perhaps as damning is the police services' record on issues of race. Efforts by the board of police commissioners to get the police involved with the race relations committee were resisted and neither would it bring in an employment equity program.
It's no accident then, that amongst all the character references and testimonials to Scott we've heard, the voices of prominent Natives have been conspicuous by their absence.
All of this is taking a toll on the reputation of the police in the broader community, Maddin said.
"I am not very proud of the fact that the city of Saskatoon and the Saskatoon Police Service is indeed in the microscope by agencies such as the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and Amnesty International. We are on watch, we have been placed on watch with respect to policing in our city, and that doesn't please me much, nor the members of the board," Maddin said.
Maddin also identified a range of other issues inside the police department, from poor staff morale, to problems in other areas, including recruitment, promotions and transfers, and a raft of other things.
The picture that begins to emerge is of a police service very much in need of a housecleaning. Since the existing police hierarchy is a reflection of Scott's personnel choices, it would hardly make sense to have one of his hand-picked senior administrators handle the broom. An outsider is the only way to get it done.
By stating his case as plainly as he has, Maddin has issued an open challenge to his opponents to take him on. If the mayor's version is not the real story, then it's incumbent on Scott's forces to come up with a more credible version of events.
Maddin's speech was one he should have made three weeks ago, but at least the pussycat is finally waking up.
Coun. Don Atchison is asking his colleagues to tell the board of police commissioners that council is not confident in the way the board is operating.
"We can't ask them to step down, but hopefully if council agrees that they're not confident with them, they would step aside. I have very little confidence in this board at this particular point in time," Atchison said.
Atchison said he will put forward a notice of motion of non-confidence at city council tonight. He expects it will be voted on at a later council meeting.
"I think that when you tell the public that you have no direction for the police commission, (and) you don't know what kind of leader you are looking for, I think those are really serious things, especially when you let the former chief go because he didn't have the vision or direction that you wanted.
"If you haven't got a vision or direction, how do you know his vision and direction are not right?" he asked.
Former chief Dave Scott was fired by the board of police commissioners June 21 on the grounds that the commission wanted a "new direction for policing."
Some public support has streamed forth on Scott's behalf as residents demand an explanation for his firing. More than 30 letters and two petitions with 47 names have been added to the agenda for tonight's council meeting, many calling for Mayor Jim Maddin's resignation and that of the police commission, which he chairs.
Some writers have requested permission to speak to council.
Patricia Roe, a city councillor and member of the commission, says while she's not surprised by the amount of public support for Scott, the commission was looking out for the best interests of the community when it terminated his contract.
She says while Saskatoon has many good community-style policing programs, "they are overlayed on an old model of policing." Roe says change is necessary for the city of Saskatoon, and although "it's uncomfortable . . . that doesn't mean that it doesn't have to be done."
"(Scott's dismissal) was certainly not done in a vindictive way. We have a job to do and we were appointed to do a job and we're doing the job the best we can. And to suggest that we don't care about the community, that we're not honourable people, is insulting," she said.
"I would hope that people would give this commission a chance to demonstrate what's possible before they totally pass judgment on it."
Roe said in an interview Saturday she's aware Atchison is bringing forth his notice of motion, and she respects his right to do that.
"I have no animosity towards him on that score at all," she said.
"He can do that if he wants, so we'll see what happens."
Coun. Rik Steernberg said he "fully expected" public support for Scott, but he's not sure "taking the time up for council to express . . . appreciation for Dave Scott is an appropriate use of time.
"At this point the only thing that I have heard is that it's people who know Dave Scott personally and feel that Dave Scott was a really nice guy and the police commission shouldn't have done what they did to him," he said.
"My personal thought of that is we're elected to make decisions based upon the business, not our personal relationships, otherwise what you'd end up seeing is we'd be hiring all our friends because they're such nice people. You need to get people that can do the job and can do the job the way that council and the governing body wishes to see it done."
Coun. Myles Heidt, a police commission member, said while he's not surprised people are rallying to support Scott, the board has "not done anything extraordinary.
"What we're doing is exercising an option of a contract," he said.
"(But) I think people have to be noticed. They're showing their loyalty to Mr. Scott and I would expect nothing differently."
Heidt said despite Atchison's intent tonight, he will not resign from the board.
"I think (Atchison) would hope that we would resign if we didn't have at least six votes supporting us. Boards stay in place from year to year, from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31. If you start tossing out members of the public whenever you don't get your own way, you're heading down a path of total destruction," he said.
SASKATOON - The controversy surrounding Saskatoon's Police Chief continues.
"I want the media there and the public to se it on TV and to see what each and every person believes, publicly, not privately" ...Don Atcheson It's been three weeks since the board of police commissioners fired former chief David Scott.
City Councillor Don Atchison is planning a motion of non-confidence in the board of police commissioners at Monday's council meeting.
He says the commission says it let Scott go because he didn't share the commission's vision of community policing. Atcheson says he's yet to see or hear what the Board's vision is.
He expects debate on his motion will be delayed until council's August meeting.
Atcheson says he doesn't care when the issue is debated as long as it is dealt with in public. "I don't want this matter to go back into an in-camera session where the commission and city council meet and discuss it behind closed doors", says Atecheson. "I want the media there and the public to see it on TV and to see what each and every person believes publicly not privately."
Meanwhile at least one petition is circulating in Saskatoon calling for Scott's re-instatement and the resignation of Mayor Jim Madden.
Saskatoon lynch mob: Just the story to sell papers during a boring summer
Mayor Jim Maddin staunchly defended the Saskatoon police commission's decision to take down the city's former police chief - even after enduring an hour-long siege of protest from a record crowd that packed city council chambers Monday night.
Amid calls for the resignation of the commission, a public inquiry into the termination of Dave Scott's contract, and warnings of voter revolt next civic election, Maddin tried to provide more details on why the commission three weeks ago voted unanimously to ask Scott to leave.
It all comes down to resistance, he said - resistance by the former chief to respect community programming, to listen to the board's priorities and implement them, to put a police member on the race relations committee until the hour before he was dismissed, to implement a long-term strategic plan, to support a new employment equity policy, and to look internally at priorities to find more money for officers on the street.
"We wanted more visibility of the bicycle patrol. . . . At the end of this bicycle season the bicycle patrol has been ordered disbanded. That is one example of the type of resistance this board has encountered," Maddin told the crowd. "Not only do we encounter this resistance, it is also accompanied by subtle and not-so-subtle suggestions that the only way that this police administration can accommodate the board's request is to remove the programs or look at staff layoffs. That is something this board is not going to tolerate."
But his answers did little to quell the rage of residents who came to council wanting what one speaker described as the "real answers" behind Scott's dismissal.
More than 300 people crammed into the muggy council chambers and overflowed into the City Hall lobby, nearly all applauding at any mention of the commission's decision being a poor one.
The policing issue was moved ahead on the agenda because of the number of people who showed up. There was nearly double the number allowed by fire regulations.
Russel Marcoux, a supporter of Scott, said after Maddin's remarks that he was still left without the detailed answer he wanted.
In front of council, Marcoux told commissioners that that they should be embarrassed and ashamed of their decision to dismiss Scott.
"It is time to cut out the rhetoric and double speak and give us, the citizens of Saskatoon, some solid rationale to your actions.
"To date your rationale is wrong. The process is wrong. And to put it bluntly, you blew it," he said, his voice muted by the cheers from the crowd. Coun. Don Atchison introduced a motion on Monday night asking that the commission membership - except for the mayor - be replaced. (The mayor's position is provincially legislated.)
Councillors had to vote unanimously to waive the normal one-meeting delay before such a motion would be voted on officially.
Councillors Tiffany Paulsen, Patricia Roe, Lenore Swystun, Myles Heidt and Rik Steernberg and Mayor Maddin wanted to push the motion up. (Roe and Heidt are also on the commission.)
Atchison, Kate Waygood, Peter McCann, Owen Fortosky and Glen Penner stopped that from happening by opting for a one-month wait to allow for more reflection on what could be a legally complicated decision.
Don Funk, another Scott supporter, told councillors they will be judged by how they vote on that motion.
"Those who are responsible for this heinous act will be judged by the community. For the councillors who do support this action, I support you and applaud you along with citizens of this community. For those who don't support it, you will be responsible to explain your actions at the next election," said Funk.
Maddin himself reminded the crowd of what happened during the last civic election just nine months ago. He was elected on a platform of change to both how City Hall and the police service operate.
"What we have in Saskatoon is essentially a traditional policing model with programming layered on top of it - sensitive community programs," said Maddin.
Just what the police commission's community policing model looks like is still vague, and Maddin makes no apologies for that. He earned his own smaller round of applause for saying the board is committed to moving forward on defining what community policing means to the commission and to Saskatoon. "It just doesn't appear one day suddenly on a piece of paper - this is where we were, this is where we want to be and this is how we want to get there."
The Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners made a "wise move" to terminate Dave Scott's contract because the former police chief was not a great leader, says a member of the police service.
Special Const. Renee Reimer Horner, who has worked for the police service for six years, said she hopes the dismissal will also spur the elimination of what she describes as the Old Boys network and top-down attitudes at the department.
"Saskatoon needs change. We need change in leadership. We need change in administration. There needs to be policy changes implemented that are more community related with better community ties," said Reimer Horner in an interview Monday.
"It's all the Old Boys club. It's time for a change."
She said she decided to speak out after becoming frustrated with hearing over and over in the media from Scott's supporters, who have insisted terminating his contract was unjustified. Reimer Horner, who has worked with the detention arm of the service but is currently on leave, recently sent a letter to The StarPhoenix to put her opinion on the record.
"Thirty-two years on the job does not make you a qualified chief nor necessarily a good leader, it just means that you were able to convince a hiring board whom you had established friendships with and business contacts, that you were the best person for the job," she wrote.
"The police will continue to do their jobs with or without a different chief. Step out gracefully Dave and enjoy your retirement."
Opinions in police circles vary widely, she said in an interview, from people who are disappointed with Scott's dismissal, to those who are relieved - along with those who could care less.
"There are a lot of people who think that change is good. Maybe he's a nice person, but it's time for change."
The curtailing of the popular bike patrol program, planned for the end of the summer, is one indication of the need for new leadership, she said.
Earlier this year, the police commission refused Scott's request for a $300,000 boost to his budget to cover some new programs and maintain existing services. To reduce costs, Scott cut some programs, including the bike patrol.
According to budget documents, the police would save $21,220 by taking the bikes off the street and reallocating staff. Some resources for the program were donated.
Reimer Horner said Scott undermined the police commission's philosophy for more community policing.
"(The bike section) was just so effective. That is the thing about community policing - they (the commissioners) want effective community policing. The bike (section) goes to the Teddy Bear Picnic or Diefenbaker Park - they can go anywhere plus they can be used for regular duties," said Reimer Horner, whose husband is on the bike patrol.
Scott has said in order to maintain basic police operations, including responding to calls, some community programming had to be reduced. The commission terminated Scott's contract about three weeks ago, explaining his vision of community policing did not match its own.