SASKATOON - Twelve jurors have been selected for the trial of two Saskatoon city police officers.
Constables Ken Munson and Dan Hatchen are charged with unlawful confinement and assault. A 34-year-old aboriginal man claims two officers abandoned him outside the city limits, on a cold January night of last year.
The case has caused tension between aboriginal people and police in Saskatoon.
Sergeant Al Stickney, the head the Saskatoon Police Association, hopes that this trial will improve that relationship.
"I'm always hoping that the truth comes out of this and that at the end of the week -- when this thing is expected to wrap up -- that the truth will be good enough," said Stickney. "That's all we have for justice in this country -- is courts."
The Vice-President of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Lawrence Joseph is also hoping the trial will bring out the truth.
"Let's all pray that the truth will come out and not only benefit those people that are most impacted -- the police officers and the families involved -- but all of society in Saskatchewan," said Joseph. "That's our wish, it's not with vengeance by any means."
The prosecution will begin calling witnesses Tuesday morning.
Darrel Night, the man who alleges he was abandoned, is expected to testify later this week for the Crown.
Police Chief Dave Scott will not discipline a Saskatoon officer who was chastised by a judge for staging a "highly Rambo-type investigation" and "operating without any sense of decency or conscience."
Scott directed an interview request Tuesday to Staff Sgt. Glenn Thomson, who said an internal investigation into the behaviour of Sgt. Murray Zoorkan during a mail theft investigation three years ago did not uncover any illegal activity. No action will be taken, Thomson said.
"We have interviewed the prosecutor and defence counsels, the judge declined an interview. As a result of that we found no misdoings under the Criminal Code or the provincial Police Act," Thomson said.
"The superintendent of criminal investigations, the member and the prosecutor sat down and discussed the situation and the techniques and we're satisfied that the situation has been dealt with. "It's all over and done with." (see original story which also implicates Dueck in the intimidation of Kim Cooper)
In March, Scott directed senior police officials to look into Zoorkan's behaviour following a scathing rebuke by Queen's Bench Justice Robert Laing about Zoorkan's methods in obtaining a statement from a suspect in the mail theft case.
In the judgment, Laing declared inadmissible a statement by postal worker Kimberly Allen Cooper regarding a missing mail packet that contained $184,500. Without Cooper's statement as evidence in the case, Crown prosecutor Terry Hinz stayed the charges against Cooper.
The missing money was mailed from Credit Union Central in Regina in October 1996.
It was scanned by computer at the post office there, then disappeared without a trace.
For more than seven weeks in spring 1997, Zoorkan tried to get Cooper, who sorted packages in Saskatoon, to take a polygraph test, something Cooper had the right to refuse.
Laing said Murray Zoorkan intimidated Cooper with comments about his marriage and by saying he knew where Cooper's children went to school. As well, Cooper was threatened that the Hells Angels would come after him or his wife.
Cooper gave police a short statement saying he had handled a money packet the night the cash disappeared. He said he left it locked in a cage, at the direction of his supervisor.
Laing said the statement was given involuntarily to an officer "operating without any sense of decency or conscience," who staged a "highly Rambo-type investigation" that was "offensive to the rule of law."
In his ruling, Laing criticized the investigative tactics employed by Zoorkan: "He decided he would operate not according to the law - which I am sure he was well acquainted with - but according to his own rules, which, in a nutshell, was intimidation to force Mr. Cooper into doing something that law said he had a perfect right not to do," Laing stated.
Scott asked Dan Wiks, deputy chief in charge of operations, and Don MacEwan, superintendent in charge of criminal investigations, to consult with Hinz in reviewing Laing's statements, "to see if there are any issues that we as a police service should be concerned about with regards to the investigation." Thomson said the matter was completed in the last few days.
Darren Hagen, Cooper's lawyer, said Cooper has directed him to look into his legal options and whether lawsuits against police in similar cases have been successful.
Cooper has not decided whether he will file a formal complaint with the police department about Zoorkan's actions, Hagen said.
Chiefs of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN) voted Tuesday to spend almost $300,000 investigating how police treat aboriginal people in Saskatchewan.
The resolution declared that $298,000 from the First Nations Gaming Trust be used to fund an independent investigationinto police "misconduct and brutality."
"Federal and provincial governments have refused to fund the project that essentially gathers incriminating evidence against government employees," the resolution stated.
Support was nearly unanimous at the spring session of the FSIN legislative assembly.
Vice-chief Lawrence Joseph indicated that investigators will be hired to carry out the probe, but few other details (were) available.
Joseph urged the band chiefs to recognize this as an oportunity to empower First Nations people.
"This is a clear message to the provincial government and also to the federal government that the First Nations of Saskatchewan are together in this and that they speak not only politically but with their wallets."
Joseph said known abuses against First Nations peoples, such as the incident in which Saskatoon police officers left Darrell Night, an aboriginal man, outside the city on a freezing night, are just the "tip of the iceberg."
Constables Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson are charged wth assault and unlawful confiement in connection with the Night incident.
The RCMP are also investigating the cases of four other aboriginal men to see if there was any police wrongdoing in those cases.
"The RCMP are engaged in what they call a task force to investigate those deaths that are there," said Joseph. "Definitely they're finding things there that have been overlooked and certainly there will be further charges. I'm sure of that."
He commended he more than 400 callers who have reported incidents of abuse to a telephone hotline, and said there are many more First Nations people who are afraid to speak out against the authorities.
"I believe a big thank you goes to that very brave individual, Darrell Night," he said.
Joseph further criticized Saskatoon city police, saying they have offered "no great show of support," especially compared to the Regina Police Service.
"In Regina, the chief of police has really called us on a regular basis and tried to work with us," said Joseph. "Unfortunately I cannot say that for the Saskatoon Police Service and the Saskatoon Police Commission."
Assembly of First Nations Chief Phil Fontaine, who was at the Saskatchewan sddrmbly, supported the FSIN decision to launch an independent investigation.
"We're behind them," said the leader. "It really shows how serious First Nations peoples are about justice issues in this province and this country."
Saskatoon city police have a new word for lying under oath, for threatening a man's wife and children, for behaving without conscience or decency. The word is "policy."
This would explain how a senior officer can get away with all of the above without being disciplined in any way. It's standard operating procedure.
The officer would be Sgt. Murray Zoorkan, who earlier this spring was denounced in open court by the presiding Queen's Bench judge. This happened during a case involving a postal worker acquitted of theft, when Justice Robert Laing rejected Zoorkan's evidence. The case revolved around an ambiguous statement extracted from the accused by means of police intimidation, including systematic harassment and, most despicably, threats of violence against his family.
I know where your children go to school, Zoorkan told the accused.
"Totally out of control," was Laing's characterization of the veteran officer. Zoorkan's methods were not only unconscionable and indecent, said the judge, but "offensive to the rule of law."
It was an invitation to justice authorities to charge Zoorkan with criminal intimidation and-or perjury.
That was back in March. This week, more than two months later, police finally announce Zoorkan will not be charged with criminal intimidation. Neither will he be subjected to any internal discipline. Not so much as a reprimand.
It figures that police aren't saying why Zoorkan, a senior, veteran officer from whom others will take their lead, is allowed to get away with the kind of conduct you'd expect of a gangster. Police Chief Dave Scott, who is responsible for internal discipline, won't even deign to publicly discuss the little matter of a rogue cop.
He left the talking to Staff Sgt. Glenn Thomson, who would only say that there was no crime, no violation of the Police Act and no reason to discipline Zoorkan.
How this could be when sworn testimony led a respected trial judge to declare otherwise, neither Thomson nor anyone else in authority will say.
"It's over and done with," Thomson insisted.
As usual, the city's police commission has kept a low profile. So low as to be invisible. If we still have a police commission, that is.
We're supposed to. It's important. Without the leadership and civilian oversight of an effective police commission, police could do whatever they wanted.
They would be out of control. Exactly as they appear to be.
The police commission we're supposed to have is supposed to be chaired by Mayor Henry Dayday. Someone should mention this to him, if it isn't already too late.
Under the dubious leadership of Dayday and Scott, the Saskatoon police service is squandering its most important resource, namely the public trust.
Police are already suspected of dumping helpless drunks at the edge of town, at night, in winter. Police files that might have implicated particular officers in a case where a man froze to death have conveniently gone missing.
This is not the first time something like this has happened.
Records that might have exposed a police cover-up of David Milgaard's wrongful conviction conveniently went missing, too.
When Zoorkan was reprimanded by the judge, Scott responded by going on holidays. This even as an RCMP task force investigated other allegations of police misconduct.
It's not as if there's a lot of brilliant investigative work in between scandals. Police appear to have no clue in three unsolved home-invasion murders and as many brutal assaults.
And now we learn that police policy apparently includes threatening children to force a confession from their father, who, from all indications, is innocent.
". . . In the view of this police officer," said the judge, "the end justified the means. The courts have never tolerated this approach by police officers and neither do I."
What's alarming is that the same cannot be said of our mayor and police chief. They're leaving an out-of-control officer on the street with a badge and gun. They can't even police their own department.