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Saskatoon Police scandal

Don WormeOn Feb. 16, 2000, all hell broke lose when Darrell Night through his lawyer, Don Worme (right), came forward to reveal that two city policemen had driven him to the edge of town and left him there in sub-zero weather -- the location was the same place two frozen bodies had been discovered just two weeks earlier. The problem for the cops was that not only did Night survive, he was able to remember the time, the badge numbers and the police car number.

Police Chief Dave Scott called a press conference where he announced the cops who had dropped Night out by the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station had come forward and were now on a 30 day suspension! He praised them for their forthrightness even though they had been caught cold! He said that there was no apparent connection between the Night drop-off and the drop-offs of 25-year-old Rodney Naistus and 30-year-old Lawrence Wegner, the two men who did not survive the experience.

Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson

inJusticebusters ask the obvious: Why are the two who have admitted their actions not been charged with attempted homicide or depraved indifference to human life?

Furthermore, why is Scott not stating unequivocally that it is not Saskatoon City Police policy to drive drunks -- of any race -- to the edge of town and leave them there? Is he so reticent because Saskatoon cops routinely do this and he still wants to cover up this fact? Scott's statement that there will be no cover-up rings hollow to those of us who know that Sgt. Brian Dueck, another depraved and sadistic policeman has found sanctuary within his department since he became chief.

The Native community is outraged and demanding a full and open investigation. We should all be outraged. This is a town where the Justice System, Social Services and the police treat their most defenceless citizens badly and often sadistically. In the next days, will publish more of what we know -- and what we can prove -- about the system which has protected Sgt. Brian Dueck and routinely beats up its "human trash."

At noon Friday, Feb. 17, Worme announced that several other people had come forward claiming to have received similar treatment to Night. inJusticebusters encourage everyone to come forward with their stories.

City cops suspended: Police chief orders homicide investigation after Native men discovered frozen to death

Saskatoon police Chief Dave Scott has suspended two senior constables and ordered a homicide investigation after two Native men were found frozen to death near the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station earlier this month.

As well, Scott has ordered an internal investigation into allegations by a third man, described as a "First Nation male from Saskatoon," that he was taken south of the Queen Elizabeth plant by two uniformed police officers, ejected from the cruiser in sub-zero weather and instructed to walk back to the city.

The man's allegation - coming the same week as the discovery of the two bodies - triggered the homicide investigation and the internal review.

In an interview Tuesday, Scott said the two deaths and the man's complaint are not viewed as separate. He said he assigned major crimes Staff Sgt. Ken Sawyer specifically to assess any overlap. The file from the internal investigation will eventually be sent outside the Saskatoon force, to the Justice Department in Regina, for a recommendation on charges.

"What we have to make a determination of, once we get all the facts, is there an overlap? Is it coincidence? Or is there a relationship?" he said.

"This is extremely serious. I can't think of anything more serious, as far as an internal matter, in my years of service."

Lawrence Wegner

Friends of Lawrence Kim Wegner (right), the 30-year-old Saskatchewan Indian Federated College student discovered Feb. 3 in a stubble field by the power station, fear the worst. Workers near the station found Wegner's body clothed only in a T-shirt, jeans and socks.

"All I know is that he did not walk out to that field alone," said Brent Ahenakew, 20, who lived with Wegner in a west-side apartment.

"He wouldn't walk out there," added Jennifer Heidel, who lived in the same suite with Ahenakew and Wegner.

Scott said investigators are concentrating on a specific time period, but will follow the investigation wherever it leads. Scott refused to name the constables who were suspended, but said one had 10 years experience and the other 15 years.

"We'll go back as far as we have to. I have given direction that I don't care how long this investigation takes, I don't care how many resources this investigation takes," he said.

The first person discovered was a 25-year-old Native male, found partially clothed and frozen to death on Saturday, Jan. 29 in the Holiday Park industrial area, just north of the Queen Elizabeth plant. Police refused to release his name and said they suspected he died of exposure.

The next day, Jan. 30, Lawrence Wegner went on a drug binge with his roommates and two male friends at the west-side apartment he'd moved into a week earlier. According to the people there, Wegner and another man left the apartment between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. after shooting up a mixture of morphine and synthetic cocaine.

"We were shooting up that night and, y'know, he got too high, he f--ed off and the next thing you know, he was dead," said Ahenakew.

"Lawrence was a guy that could handle drugs very well, y'know? I know he didn't walk out to that field alone 'cause, even though the guy was pretty wasted, he still knows where the hell he's at."

The man who left with Wegner landed in St. Paul's Hospital within an hour of leaving the suite. Family took him there after he collapsed on a couch; he spent the night in the hospital because of the drug overdose.

Sometime that evening between 11 p.m. and midnight, Eliza Whitecap said a man came to the door of her bungalow on 20th Street West. She later realized it was Lawrence Wegner, her cousin's son. Despite the frigid temperatures and late hour, he was dressed in only a T-shirt, jeans and socks.

He was pounding on the door, yelling "pizza, pizza."

"When I asked my daughter, she said I don't think he's all there, that guy. How come he said `pizza, pizza' and he doesn't have no car or nothing? Then he just started running," Whitecap said.

"He runs across really fast, towards St. Paul. Then I told my daughter you better call the cops, tell the cops right away, just in case. So she called the cops and told them about that, described him. Those cops said there was already somebody calling about him."

On Monday, Wegner's classmate Alvin Baptiste was concerned when his friend did not come to the school on Duke Street. On Tuesday, with Wegner still absent, he became even more concerned as the pair had an exam. Wegner was in the first year of a social work program.

Wegner's body, frozen rock solid, was discovered Feb. 3 near the Queen Elizabeth station. Police refused to release his name and said they suspected he died of hypothermia.

Chief Scott said he first became involved on Feb. 4, when the Native man spoke with a uniformed member on the street and raised allegations of getting picked up and then dropped off at the power station.

Scott initiated the investigation, which progressed over that weekend and into Monday, Feb. 7.

After a key phone call that day "gave us confirmation who the two uniformed members were," Scott suspended the officers when they arrived at work Feb. 10. Scott wouldn't elaborate on the nature of the call.

Scott also contacted Saskatoon Tribal Council vice-chief George Lafond and informed him of events.

In addition to his concerns about the general public's faith in the police service, Scott said that he "wants to ensure and maintain confidence within the aboriginal community."

Wegner's friends at the college are as shocked by his double life as with the circumstances of his death. They remembered him as a quiet student who was passionate about his studies and the social work program.

Still, best friend Alvin Baptiste knew that Wegner had a dark side.

"He was a lonely person, that's what made me his friend. We got along, you could tease him and he wouldn't get mad," he said.

"That's the Lawrence I knew, the way I remember him. But I knew he did drugs, he never denied it."

The hard drugs put Wegner in a mellow mood and he'd tell Baptiste, "things seem so real when I'm on drugs."

Ahenakew said that his roommate had a tremendous capacity for drugs.

"Lawrence was a guy that could handle drugs very well, y'know. The guy took a tab of acid, and you know what acid does to you: it keeps you up all night. He crashed out on it, and that's a powerful drug, and the guy crashed," he said. On the night Wegner went missing, he said that the pair had been injecting "morphine, cocaine and some pills."

Despite the drug abuse, Heidel remembers Wegner's passion for school and said he never mixed the two.

"He was proud of school, he went every day. He wanted to be a social worker." He was buried Feb. 9 at the Saulteaux First Nation cemetery.

Native leaders demand independent public inquiry

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) wants an independent public inquiry into the suspicious deaths of two First Nations men who were found frozen near the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station.

Perry Bellegarde

FSIN Chief Perry Bellegarde (right) said Tuesday an independent inquiry is necessary to ensure the police investigation into the deaths is done in an impartial and visible manner.

City police suspended two senior constables and ordered a homicide investigation following the discovery of the bodies. An internal investigation has been ordered into the allegations of another First Nations man, who claims he was ejected from a police cruiser near the power station and told to walk back to the city.

"An independent inquiry would bring a lot more confidence back to the police service," said Bellegarde, who stressed the FSIN's justice commission, under the leadership of vice-chief Lawrence Joseph, should be involved in the probe.

"We want to clear the air. We don't want another J.J. Harper situation (where Winnipeg police tried to cover up the circumstances of the fatal shooting of the First Nations leader by a police officer). We want to make sure that doesn't happen here or in Regina or Prince Albert."

The revelation of the investigation comes on the heels of a Statistics Canada report that states aboriginal people are overrepresented in the courts and jails because they are poor, unemployed and have lower education levels.

Bellegarde said the investigation and allegations highlight the justice problem and mistreatment First Nations people have often suffered at the hands of the police.

"For First Nations, if you've lived the life we have lived, it only reinforces the fact that society is again dumping on the weakest of weak. There is a lot of disgust and disdain with the system. But having said that, what do we do to improve the system? What do we do to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone again? We have to look at options."

Among the options the Saskatoon Police Service might consider are the hiring of more First Nations officers and an expansion of cultural sensitivity training within the force, he said.

Even though the FSIN wants a public inquiry, Bellegarde said he has confidence Saskatoon police Chief Dave Scott will treat the matter seriously.

So does George Lafond, vice-chief with the Saskatoon Tribal Council (STC) and a member of the police commission's aboriginal advisory board.

"We all have to believe Dave Scott is doing the right things. I think every citizen has to believe this. There has to be some comfort in believing that the process is set to get answers."

However, Lafond said he and other STC chiefs are extremely concerned about the situation. He was informed about the investigation by Scott on Feb. 7.

The STC has built a good working relationship with the police service, with the two parties co-operating on several youth initiatives.

"There will be some sort of strain on relations," said Lafond.

"But I don't want to go down that road now. It's too early."

Police chief under siege: Dave Scott reverses stance, calls for outside investigation

Police Chief, David Scott

Five hours after police Chief Dave Scott (right) publicly said Saskatoon police would investigate its own officers, he handed the controversial file to the RCMP major crimes division in Regina.

While the decision to seek outside help pleased the Saskatoon Police Commission and the provincial Justice Department, it's not what groups such as the Saskatchewan Coalition Against Racism (SCAR) and chiefs with the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) had in mind when they called for an independent inquiry.

The gravity of the charges - allegations of systemic racism, abuse and possible criminal charges against two senior constables - demand an arm's length review, they said.

"This isn't adequate at all, it's still police looking into police. It's still in the brotherhood," said SCAR president Bob Hughes.

FSIN vice-chief Lawrence Joseph said he has no more confidence in the police force.

"It's not enough. I feel totally disgusted. The justice system has miserably failed our people right across Saskatchewan," he said.

Deputy justice minister John Whyte said he supports Scott's change of heart but agrees with Joseph and Hughes on one point. Giving the RCMP the investigation will not involve the public in the process.

"It's about as far away from a public inquiry as you can get in life. It's a police investigation and they'll be trying to determine the facts around these rather famous issues and decide if there is any criminal accountability that would be appropriate," he said.

"There are people out here who are potentially going to be held criminally accountable. There's nothing higher than that we administer the criminal justice according to the law and according to the requirements of due process and fair trial.

"Of course we're not going to develop an ad hoc non-professional investigation regime for this case. That's just unthinkable."

Scott made the call to provincial Justice Minister Chris Axworthy for outside help after a dramatic news conference Wednesday where he described "every police chief's worst nightmare."

After distributing maps of the city's southwest quadrant to assembled media, Scott went on to explain how a Native man, Darrell Night of the Saulteaux reserve, had come forward and alleged that in early February two uniformed officers drove him outside the city in sub-zero temperatures, ejected him from their cruiser and told him to walk back into town.

Night's allegation came in the same week that the bodies of two other Native men, 25-year-old Rodney Naistus and 30-year-old Lawrence Wegner, were found in the vicinity of the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station. Police at the time believed the men died of hypothermia and did not suspect foul play.

Scott said that Night approached a uniformed member Feb. 3, the day workers discovered Wegner's frozen body. The story he told, connecting his experience with the two bodies, so concerned the officer that he contacted Scott directly. "Yes, there was a comment made by him (Night) about the most recent one," Scott said.

"He came forward and spoke to the police officer as a result of the public becoming aware of the body being found out by the Queen Elizabeth."

Scott said he became aware of Night's allegations on Feb. 4 and initiated an internal investigation into the claims. He also ordered major crimes officers to look at the deaths of Naistus and Wegner to see whether "there is anything in relation, as far as the autopsy results, that would indicate any foul play or suspicion around their deaths.

"They'll determine whether (taking people outside the city) is a common practice. Is this widespread? At this time, I have no indication of that."

On Monday, Feb. 7, two senior constables came forward and gave Scott their side of the story about what happened with Night.

Scott did not confirm outright that the officers admitted to taking the man outside the city, nor did he deny the suggestion when raised by reporters. He did say the officers, both with 15 years on the force, were suspended with pay and had agreed to take a polygraph test from an expert outside the department. "Nothing ties the two officers to the two people found dead. Nothing at this time. Absolutely nothing," he said.

In the morning news conference, Scott defended the decision to keep the investigation in-house.

"I am the chief of police here and I have every bit of confidence in the capability and the competence of our investigators. I think there are measures involved here already that bring in outside influence so that it's independent - the polygraphs will be done by members outside the Saskatoon Police Service and it will be reviewed by public prosecutions in Regina," he said.

"As chief, I would ask first that you have confidence in me as the chief of police and leader of this police service to ensure that a complete investigation be done properly. I can assure you, it will be."

Scott said the results of the force's internal investigation are with the public prosecutions branch at the Justice Department in Regina. Its recommendation on whether to lay charges could be completed in two weeks, he said. The homicide investigation by Saskatoon major crimes officers, meanwhile, is ongoing.

By mid-afternoon, however, Scott reversed his position on an outside review. A one-page news release described how he changed his mind after consultations with First Nations leaders, Justice officials and Saskatoon police administrators. Scott made the request for an outside review in a letter to Justice Minister Chris Axworthy.

Deputy minister Whyte spoke with Scott before and after the morning news conference. They discussed options for handling the matter, including bringing in an outside force to take over the investigation, Whyte said.

"We discussed together very, very constructively what would achieve best our two aims here - to find out the truth, and to do what we can to restore public confidence in the administration of justice, which is very much under siege when something like this happened," he said.

"We certainly didn't disagree with the chief's call with his letter. We are certainly satisfied with the result that we have arrived at with respect to the police investigation."

At least five members of F Division of the RCMP in Regina will take over the three facets of the investigation - Night's allegation and the deaths of Wegner and Naistus - under the supervision of Insp. Darrell Madill, head of major crimes, Whyte said.

The officers will try and strike a balance between investigating these specific circumstances and looking at whether there is larger wrongdoing.

"It's not as narrow as these particular deaths, or the one particular incident. On the other hand, it's not an open-ended investigation into Saskatoon Police Services police practices," he said.

"It is a criminal investigation that's restricted to determining whether there's criminal accountability around fairly specific sets of circumstances: the alleged abduction, the two bodies and the general claim of abductions."

The Rodney Naistus story has moved to its own page

Dayday backs outside probe of deaths: Seriousness of allegations against police officers warrants outside investigation

Henry Dayday

Mayor Henry Dayday (right) is throwing his support behind an external investigation, despite an early move endorsing an internal one into the actions of two police officers accused of taking a Native man to the outskirts of town and abandoning him.

The investigation will also try to uncover whether two men previously found in the area were also left there by police and froze to death.

No matter how competently the police were able to handle the case, Dayday said for the sake of the public, someone else should look into the serious allegations. "I think it is important for us now to look at having it done outside and assist in maintaining public confidence in the police force," said Dayday, who is chair of the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners.

The Saskatoon Police Service will hand over to the RCMP allegations that two police officers dumped a Native man by the Queen Elizabeth Power Station and separate files on the earlier discoveries of two frozen bodies in the same area.

Police Chief Dave Scott first indicated on Wednesday the investigations would be handled internally, with consultation with the public prosecutions office in Regina on possible charges. Dayday told reporters shortly after 1 p.m. that he supported the in-house investigation.

After later being told by Scott that an external investigation was going to be done instead, Dayday said he has no problem supporting the change.

"I have the confidence we could do it. But I think what is important here now in terms of what is taking place - and what is evolving - we would have more public confidence in the process if it goes outside," said Dayday in an interview.

He said the police commission will get more involved after receiving a report about the two officers accused of leaving a Native man at the power station in early February.

"The chief determines what kind of investigation he wants and it is up to the board to decide what they want after they get the report. At this stage, I can say I totally support the chief in his initiative," said Dayday.

He said the allegations affect the whole city. "Anytime these kind of things come up it doesn't do much for the city's image," he said.

Coun. Jim Maddin, a former police officer and current member of the commission board, said he is glad the chief has asked the investigations be handled externally.

"I am relieved and happier now. I think it should have been an outside agency checking in the first place but I was prepared to go with that plan for the moment," said Maddin.

He is concerned, however, about how he found out about the details of the investigation. The board was told at their Feb. 10 meeting simply that two officers had been suspended with pay. He said he had to fill in the blanks by watching Scott's news conference on Wednesday.

Board member Coun. Peter McCann said he had full confidence the local police force would have been able to do a proper and thorough investigation. But he is satisfied there will be external involvement.

"I am extremely anxious to get to the bottom of this and find out exactly what has happened and on the basis of the report that is forthcoming, we will take the necessary action," he said.

Public board member Todd Peterson said the chief made the right move by responding to public reaction and taking into consideration the sensitivity of the matter.

In the meantime, Const. Al Stickney, president of the Saskatoon Police Association, said the investigation has shocked the rank and file police officers. He is confident the investigation will conclude with no connections between the officers and the deaths.

"Everyone is disappointed that a bad light is shed on the people we all work with. On the same hand, they are supporting the people who have been suspended. They have worked with these fellows for years."

Saskatoon under microscope: Man who sparked internal probe tells horror story

Darrell Night

Darrell Night (right) says he remembers the racial slurs, the blue-and-white police cruiser, and having his jacket stripped off by the uniformed officers who drove him outside the city and abandoned him.

He said he can also recall the badge numbers of the two officers who left him in a desolate stubble field near the Queen Elizabeth II Power Station in the first week of February.

"They called him a 'drunken f--ing Indian' and other racially based comments through the ordeal," said Saskatoon lawyer Don Worme.

"He was traumatized by the whole ordeal. It has caused him to reconsider his confidence in the public system. He refuses to be alone in the city."

Worme is speaking for Night, at least for now. On Wednesday, the day Saskatoon police Chief Dave Scott publicly addressed Night's allegations, the man at the centre of the story stayed hidden away in Worme's Packham Avenue office.

Worme is also speaking for the family of Lawrence Wegner. The frozen, partially clothed bodies of Wegner, 30, and Rodney Naistus, 25, were found in the same week, and near the same location, where Night said he was taken by police.

Night is originally from the Saulteaux reserve north of North Battleford, the same reserve as Wegner. The coincidence is not lost on Night, although the meaning is not entirely clear, Worme said. It's just another troubling piece in a disturbing puzzle.

Did the city police do as Night alleged? Is there a connection between what may have happened to Night and the deaths of Wegner and Naistus? These are just some of the questions Worme wants answered. For his part, the lawyer said Night "wants to get to the bottom of his treatment.

"We'll not speculate on any connection (with the two deaths)."

The Saskatoon Police Service is under heavy fire for the allegations, so much so that Scott reversed his position - that the Saskatoon department can credibly investigate its own officers - and Wednesday handed over the investigation to the RCMP.

This change proved unsatisfactory for the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations and for Worme and Night.

"Systemic racism has infected the police department," Worme said.

"We need a comprehensive examination of these systemic problems."

Worme said he advised Night not to speak directly to the media. A public inquiry is the only place for the exact details of what Night said occurred to be made public, he said.

StarPhoenix editorial: Chief's request only real option

Police chief Dave Scott is doing the right thing in asking the government to appoint an outside agency to investigate the freezing deaths of two Native men in Saskatoon and allegations against two veteran cops.

What's surprising is that it took Scott until Wednesday afternoon to do something he should have done the moment he found a Native man's allegation about mistreatment at the hands of two constables credible enough to suspend the officers pending further investigation.

The man claimed that two cops took him in their cruiser to somewhere south of the Queen Elizabeth power plant and abandoned him there in freezing weather. The complaint came on the heels of the discovery of two Native men frozen to death in the same area in the outskirts of the city.

To his credit, Scott quickly reacted to the allegation by suspending the officers with pay and ordering his department to conduct a homicide investigation. However, despite the seriousness of the man's allegation in light of the fact that two Natives had been found frozen to death in the general area during the preceding week, Scott maintained as late as Monday morning that an internal investigation would suffice.

The two suspended officers were "very forthright" about the incident involving the abandoned man, Scott told reporters. There was nothing to link the two cops to the deaths, the chief said. Apropos of nothing, he suggested that they had volunteered to take polygraph tests in connection with the two deaths.

If, as Scott seemed to confirm at the morning press conference, there was one incident of Saskatoon police abandoning someone on the outskirts of the city in sub-zero weather, serious doubts arise as to whether this could have been an isolated incident.

Two officers passing a polygraph test - even ignoring its lack of evidentiary value - does absolutely nothing to alleviate any public concern that brutal treatment of anyone they consider undesirable might be endemic among Saskatoon cops.

Given this context and the undeniable existence of a protective "blue shield" among police ranks, the two frozen bodies raise even graver public concerns which nothing less than a full public inquiry can alleviate.

Scott went public with the details of the week-old internal investigation after StarPhoenix reporter Dan Zakreski contacted police this week to confirm the story. However, it patently should have been obvious to Scott all along that maintaining public confidence in the Saskatoon police force would require more than an offer to resign should the internal investigation prove unsatisfactory.

Native leaders rightly want unequivocal assurance that police officers aren't callously dismissing the value of aboriginal lives. Every citizen needs assurance that the police officers they arm and entrust with the incredible power of life and death aren't turning into cold-blooded monsters ready to bend laws to suit some warped notion of justice.

In a city where Natives dominate the bottom rung of the socio-economic ladder and aboriginals dominate the teens-to-mid-20s age grouping that's most prone to getting into trouble, cops can lose perspective and Natives become overly suspicious about police.

Given what's at stake, asking for an outside agency to investigate these serious allegations was Scott's only realistic choice.

The Saskatoon Police and the frozen bodies: Officers suspended after deaths of native men

Saskatoon Police crest

It was starless and Bible black the night Lawrence Wegner disappeared, but cold enough over the next couple of days -- minus 18 degrees -- that his body was frozen solid when it was found in a stubble field on the outskirts of Saskatoon.

Depending on whom you talk to, no footprints led to the body when workers near the Queen Elizabeth II power plant found it on the morning of Feb. 3. Or there were footprints, just as there were footprints leading to the body of another aboriginal man, Rodney Naistus, whose frozen corpse was found near the power plant on Jan. 29.

Yesterday, Saskatchewan's Justice Minister ordered the RCMP to probe allegations that Saskatoon Police officers may be involved in the deaths. Two veteran Saskatoon officers have been suspended.

The developments follow a complaint Feb. 3 -- the day Mr. Wegner was found dead -- from a third aboriginal man, Darrell Night. He said officers stripped him of his jacket, threw him out of their cruiser and told him to walk back to the city in freezing temperatures. Don Worme, Mr. Night's lawyer, said his client alleges the policemen repeatedly made racial slurs.

Saskatoon Police Chief David Scott said Mr. Night came forward "because he'd heard that a body had been found.

"There's no link at all yet," the police chief said. "We're trying to figure out if there is a link or if it's just a coincidence."

Chief Scott said he cannot identify the suspended policemen. However, sources say they are constables Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen, uniformed officers with about 18 years' experience each.

Chief Scott said the officers deny any involvement in the deaths of the two native men.

"They can understand the perception that they might have had something to do with this, but at this point we have no indication that the two events [the discovery of the bodies and the complaint of the third man] are related," Chief Scott said in an interview.

Aboriginal leaders had demanded an independent probe by the RCMP after the frozen bodies of Mr. Wegner, 30, and Mr. Naistus, 25, were found near the North Saskatchewan River south of Saskatoon.

Several police sources told The Globe and Mail yesterday that it was common knowledge among the force that some members would take unruly suspects out near the power plant and abandon them in the cold. The area is about a 10-minute walk from the outskirts of Saskatoon.

"They've been doing that for years," one source with close links to the force said. "I've never done it," that person said. "But I know of people who have. If the guy pissed them off or if they didn't have enough to lock them up, they'd take him for a drive."

Chief Scott reiterated that the officers accused by the third man were "very forthright" and that there is nothing to link them to the deaths. "I suspended these members simply because I want to maintain public trust and the trust of our aboriginal community," he told a news conference.

The police chief said prosecutors will review the facts to see whether charges are warranted. He said the officers came forward voluntarily, have been co-operative and have offered to take polygraph tests.

A source inside the department said colleagues who worked the same shifts urged the officers to come forward because suspicion had been cast on others. "The department was fingering two other guys. But the shifts got together and said you'd better fess up. The 'blue wall' went down," the source said.

Asked about this, Chief Scott said: "That's true. There was a lot of talk around the station. The two officers didn't want somebody else's name linked to this. They came in on their days off. They were very forthright."

Another police source confirmed it was known that some officers would take suspects to the outskirts of town and force them out in the cold.

"It's been going on for years. Unfortunately, this time two guys ended up dead. If it's those guys who did it, let them fry," he said. "Who I feel sorry for is the rest of the guys; it gives the whole department a bad name."

The police chief promised to keep aboriginal leaders informed of developments.

"My assurance is that if at the end of this investigation [native leaders] feel in any way that I jeopardized or neglected my duty, I will tender my resignation immediately."

Aboriginal leaders applauded Chief Scott's decision to ask for outside RCMP and Justice Department involvement.

"That's very positive," said George Lafond, vice-chief of the Saskatoon Tribal Council. "We're hoping this process gets us some answers."

Mr. Lafond said he will await developments.

"Our chiefs were very distressed to hear of the incident where a man was taken out of town and left in the cold,"he said.

Regina police accused

As the RCMP investigates possible police involvement in the deaths of two aboriginal men in Saskatoon, the Regina Police Service is looking into allegations that its own members have also driven people outside city limits and abandoned them to walk home.

"We're looking at four," Regina Police Chief Cal Johnston said Friday. "All have come to us from the media. They cover a space of time of 10 years."

In all four instances, the men took their accusations public through the media, rather than by filing official complaints. Regina police are now contacting those people.

In three cases, the alleged incidents occurred during warmer months. Regina police are still trying to contact the fourth complainant, a Saskatoon man, to find out the date of his allegation.

Johnston would not comment on the four allegations while they're under investigation.

He has heard of such activities in other communities and acknowledged it may have occurred in Regina, although the time period is unknown.

"I'm sure, at some point in the past, that incidents like this have occurred. This kind of conduct was old 20 years ago.

"It's unprofessional conduct and if members were engaged in it, they will be subject to internal discipline." Depending on the circumstances, such as the danger posed by the weather, an internal probe could turn into a criminal investigation, at which point it would be handed over to the Justice Department for review, he said.

An RCMP task force was assembled after allegations arose two weeks ago that Saskatoon police officers may have been involved in the deaths of two men whose frozen bodies were discovered on that city's outskirts in late January.

The task force is now investigating six different incidents in Saskatoon, including four deaths, all involving aboriginals.

"We have been getting calls involving the RCMP and other police services," task force spokesman Sgt. Rick Wychreschuk said. He said there have been about 100 calls to the task force's 1-800 line over the past week, but would not say if any referred to the Regina police.

The fourth charge Regina police are investigating is an allegation by Stephen Ward, a white instructor at the White Bear First Nations reserve. He told CBC Thursday that four years ago Regina police drove him outside city limits and left him there.

Ward declined to comment further on the incident on Friday.

"Some people here on the reserve have called me and felt I was diluting the racial issue," he said.

Johnston agreed some people might feel uncomfortable complaining about police to police. "It is not a requirement to show up at police headquarters to lodge a complaint."

People can also complain to the Board of Police Commissioners (a city hall committee that oversees the service), the provincial Justice Department or the Office of the Saskatchewan Police Complaints Investigator.

That office opened in 1992 as an independent reviewer of police complaints. It is located on the third floor of 1919 Saskatchewan Drive.

That office will be involved in the four current investigations, Johnston said.

"We will have all the cases reviewed by the police complaints office before we make any decision on the finality of the investigation or any action that might flow from that," Johnston said.