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.
The three-year contract extension and raise for city police Chief Dave Scott is a betrayal of democracy and of the people of Saskatoon.
Of course, we don't get to vote for the police chief. We did, however, vote for a new mayor who promised, repeatedly, to restore squandered public confidence in the city's police force. This was not just another issue to Maddin, himself a retired cop. It was his issue. Jim Maddin ran as the guy who was going to make changes in policing.
"Our police officers have lost the public trust and their every action is now viewed with suspicion," he declared. Restoring the public trust required nothing less than "a full review of the service, top to bottom." From all indications, his campaign message resonated with the voters who elected him. Ex-mayor Henry Dayday, who supported the policing status quo, ran third. The will of the electorate regarding policing could hardly have been made more clear.
Scant weeks later, we see our new, police-reforming mayor approve a nice raise and a three-year contract extension for the police chief who presided over the very loss of public confidence that made policing the election issue that Maddin rode into the mayor's office.
Maddin was to some extent constrained by the outgoing police commission, namely city councillors Kate Waygood and Peter McCann and at-large commissioners Todd Peterson and Joan Llewellyn. In yet another ringing repudiation of the policing status quo, all but the mayor were recently voted off the commission, effective Jan. 1, by the new city council. That these outgoing, lame-duck commissioners would, as their last act, vote to frustrate the public will for the next three years is perverse.
The mayor did not have to go along with it. At the very least, he could have vowed to reopen the contract when the new commission took over next month. Or pending the top-to-bottom review he promised, or something. Instead, he congratulated the chief and dropped out of sight. This is not what you'd expect from a professed reformer.
City councillor and outgoing police commissioner McCann at least stepped forward to defend the decision. In a letter to The StarPhoenix, McCann characterizes Scott as an excellent police chief who has more than met the commission's every expectation. Extending his contract, said McCann, will provide for a smooth transition between the incoming and outgoing commission.
But a smooth transition was not what people voted for in October. A top-to-bottom review was what they voted for. Restoration of the public trust was what they voted for. The mandate was for change, not a smooth transition.
It's not as if the mandate is unwarranted. City police are in bad odour. They're suspected of dumping helpless drunks on the edge of town, at night, in winter. Charges have been filed against two officers. Police files that might have implicated other officers in a case where another abandoned drunk froze to death have conveniently gone missing. The investigation continues.
McCann claims that Saskatoon police under Scott are applauded for, among other things, their aboriginal initiatives. But FSIN chiefs, as recently as two weeks ago, were urging the police chief to resign. If this is applause, I'd like to hear what booing sounds like.
There's more. Police appear to have no clue in three home-invasion murders. Police get away with threatening violence against school children to force a confession from their father. Dozens of seized guns police were supposed to destroy recently turned up in the home of a retired officer. No one in authority feels the need to explain how this could have happened.
McCann praises Scott for his devotion to community policing. But three years ago, when Scott couldn't get the budget increase he wanted, he closed the Riversdale neighbourhood police station and scrapped the police in schools program. That's not community policing. That's the opposite of community policing. In the perverse politics of Saskatoon policing, it seems that the community gets the short end of the nightstick.
Outgoing police commissioners are hijacking the democratic process by offering police Chief Dave Scott at least 18 more months on the job in secretive contract talks, despite a mandate for change from the most recent civic election, say several city councillors.
"It's nuts. It's absolutely nuts. It's a lame-duck commission that doesn't like the choices the public and council made. It's an absolute hijacking of the democratic process," said Coun. Rik Steernberg.
"They're either trying to handcuff the incoming commission or they're trying to reward a friend. That's all that I can see."
Meanwhile a member of the board of police commissioners has finally confirmed that the chief will keep his job for some length of time if he chooses to return to his post, finally clarifying the board's latest decision after a week of confusion.
"Notice could have been given Dec. 12 that the contract wasn't going to be renewed. We said it's not going to be terminated. Now we're discussing what the contract will look like," said Coun. Kate Waygood, a police commissioner who reluctantly clarified the issue after Mayor Jim Maddin didn't respond to several interview requests.
Other councillors say that under the terms of his current contract Scott will get a minimum one-year extension, leaving him as chief at least until June 14, 2002.
"They went behind closed doors, decided what they are going to do and council doesn't have a clue, the public doesn't have a clue. None of them will talk," Steernberg said.
During an election in October, Maddin was elected on a platform that included promises of police reform. Subsequently the new city council voted to replace the entire board of police commissioners. The new board does not take over until January.
Following a meeting on Dec. 12, Maddin, who automatically became police commission chair when he became mayor, announced a decision was made "not to serve termination of contract notice to Dave Scott effective June 14, 2001."
Maddin would not elaborate on whether Scott could be terminated later on. He also did not mention that the police commissioners were facing a Dec. 14 deadline and that Scott could not be terminated without penalty after that date. When asked several times by reporters if Scott could be terminated at the next meeting on Dec. 29, Maddin simply refused to answer.
In fact, the only issues remaining for discussion are the length and term of a new contract and whether or not Scott will accept it.
Maddin, who is supposed to speak for the commissioners, has not responded to interview requests on the subject made since Friday.
Requests to the city for a copy of Scott's old contract, which would have clarified the deadline issue, also received no response.
Now several of the councillors, including Steernberg, Patricia Roe and Myles Heidt, are worried about the terms of Scott's new contract, particularly its length and what financial penalties it would impose on the city if Scott is later fired and replaced.
"They could give him absolutely anything and there is nothing we can do about it. We have zero control. They could certainly put in a poison pill sort of thing where they could entrench him as tight as they want," Steernberg said.
"It's not about this chief. I couldn't give a damn if it was Dave Scott or Joe Shmuck. I don't know if he's the right man or not. It's the way this is working." Commissioner Waygood said only that such allegations are unfortunate.
Heidt, who will be part of the incoming commission, said the last election proved city residents want a new direction, including more community policing.
"The present commission has taken the community right out of the picture. I'm disappointed that they would not have allowed the process to be done in a way that the community would have their say," Heidt said.
He questioned why the board would have placed such a deadline in the middle of December, weeks after a civic election, which is held on a fixed date.
"Hopefully it was an oversight but some people I'm connected to are suspicious about that even. That's unfortunate," Heidt said.
He also wondered if the old board might give Scott a five-year contract, tying the hands of the new board, because of "hard feelings" stemming from their replacement.
"They have absolutely no mandate to do that. It's the community they're hurting. They're not hurting me. It's the taxpayers who will be shortchanged," Heidt said. Roe, who will also be part of the new commission, said she is willing to give the old commission the benefit of the doubt until an announcement is made about the new contract.
Saskatoon police Chief Dave Scott signed a new contract Wednesday that will give him a significant raise and improved benefits, while controversy swirled about the secretive process in which the contract was discussed and whether Mayor Jim Maddin supported the decision.
The new contract replaces Scott's existing one, which was for a five-year term ending June 14, 2001 and year-to-year thereafter, subject to six months termination notice.
The new deal locks in Scott for the next three years to Jan. 1, 2004 and boosts his salary to $120,000 from $113,000. Benefits such as sick leave, vacation and public holidays are unchanged, but the pension benefits and vehicle allowance have improved.
The announcement comes one week after the police commission, for which Maddin is chair, decided not to serve notice of termination of Scott's contract. By not doing so, the public was left to wonder whether Scott could be terminated at a later date.
Maddin promised an announcement Dec. 29 to elaborate. That came sooner than expected after the StarPhoenix reported Wednesday Scott would be given a new contract.
Scott's job was the focus of much attention after Perry Bellegarde, chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations (FSIN), said he should be cut loose due to strained relations between police and First Nations people.
Two officers are before the courts charged with abandoning an aboriginal man on the outskirts of the city.
As well, in February Maddin, a retired police superintendent and at the time a city councillor, said he was outraged to learn about the allegations of wrongdoing by city police in the media instead of from the chief or the mayor.
"Our police officers have lost the public trust and their every action is now viewed with suspicion. There is little room to wonder why the public feels betrayed," he wrote in a letter to The StarPhoenix.
He later promised an audit of the police service and a commitment to community policing.
One of the first things the new council did following the October election was replace the entire board of police commissioners. However, the new board does not sit until January, leaving the current board to deal with Scott's contract.
Maddin said Wednesday he "absolutely" wants a review of the police service. But he also credited Scott, who was appointed chief in 1996, with fostering "a number of community policing initiatives in Saskatoon that are held in high regard by other urban communities in North America."
Scott said he was grateful for the "dignified and professional way in which I was treated through the negotiations with (Maddin) and the board of police commissioners."
He also thanked the community and the outgoing police commission for its support, and said he looks forward to working with the new commission "to ensure Saskatoon is maintained as a safe community."
In response to Bellegarde's comments, Scott said he "fully expects to have opposition from time to time from organizations and individuals.
"Sometimes people aren't appreciative of the decisions that I may have to make as a chief," he said, adding he is looking at ways for officers "to be sensitive to the needs of First Nations and Metis people" and is open to more discussions with them.
No one from the FSIN was available for comment Wednesday. But Coun. Myles Heidt said he believes the contract is a big mistake, and Maddin didn't support it but was outvoted by the outgoing police commission.
"The bar has now been raised when it comes to all the contracts we face this year with the city," he said. "The chief's raise is on his base salary, but they failed to mention very conveniently that he still gets the inflationary rate. If there's a two or three per cent annual inflation raise he gets that as well.
"All the unions and rest of administration will go after that I'm sure. This is a total lack of respect to the taxpayers."
But Heidt was quick to dismiss Maddin's part in it, saying, "I somehow believe he had his hands tied to some degree."
Maddin admitted he and Scott differ in many areas, but "it's something we can work out."
"Chief Scott and I will be talking lots and going over some of these concerns I have and that I'm sure he has as well, to see how we may best view them."
Though Maddin promised a more open council under his regime, he originally refused to reveal the result of the police commission vote on Scott's contract. There was an option to choose a one-year contract but the commission chose a longer term.
"I know I stand to be criticized. So be it," he said.
Asked why the matter couldn't have been left for the new board to decide, Maddin said "the new commission will have its say with respect to future policing in this city."
In addressing comments by Coun. Rik Steernberg, who criticized the police commission for offering the contract in secretive talks, Maddin said there is a misunderstanding on the role of the police commission.
"The board is the employer and the chief of police is the employee and that's essentially it," he said. "The board has to make all the decisions by itself. It is not the responsibility, nor the right, really, of city council to be making those types of decisions."
Whatever one's opinion of Dave Scott's performance as Saskatoon's police chief over the past four years, the outgoing police commission's decision to sign him to a new three-year contract plainly is wrong.
Starting with Mayor Jim Maddin's apparent about-face on his assessment of the police service leadership to the seeming nose-thumbing at the public by the outgoing police commissioners, Wednesday's announcement is cause for consternation.
It's been eight weeks since Maddin was swept into office by Saskatoon voters who did something rare in Saskatoon civic politics - they tossed out incumbent Henry Dayday who'd warmed the mayor's seat for 12 years. A goodly number of the 14,202 votes Maddin, a former cop, garnered obviously had something to do with his main platform plank that promised to improve a police service whose litany of mistakes and miscues over the decades hit rock bottom in February with horrific allegations involving racist conduct by some officers.
Maddin publicly complained at the time that "our police officers have lost the public trust and their every action is now viewed with suspicion. There is little room to wonder why the public feels betrayed."
In seeking the job that would place him at the helm of the civic body that oversees the police service, Maddin promised a thorough review of the department. He told StarPhoenix columnist Randy Burton that, if the review were to indicate the need for change in the chief's office, so be it. He even went so far as to suggest that Scott had been leading Dayday around by the nose. "The police service is in trouble," Maddin suggested. "I think we have morale problems. I say something is wrong and we need to look at it very, very seriously."
Yet, the tiger who felt there was so much wrong with the police service and promised to hold public meetings as part of his plans to usher in a new era of better community policing has suddenly turned into a pussycat after just a handful of police commission meetings.
The contender who mocked Dayday by claiming that "we need more problem-solving, not to win national awards but to deal with the issues that are out there" stood up Wednesday, as chair of the commission, to announce Scott's new contract and credit the chief with fostering " a number of initiatives in Saskatoon that are held in high regard by other urban communities in North America."
Maddin didn't say what caused his 180-degree turn in the space of a few short weeks. Don't hold your breath waiting for an explanation. The man who promised an open administration has delivered nothing of the sort. His prevarication about the status of Scott's contract following a Dec. 12 commission meeting and his subsequent disappearance until Wednesday's surprising announcement of the chief's three-year deal speak volumes about what citizens might expect for the next years.
Whether the outgoing commission - councillors Peter McCann and Kate Waygood, and citizen members Joan Llewellyn and Todd Peterson - outvoted Maddin, as Coun. Myles Heidt suggests, or whether the mayor willingly went along with the new contract is immaterial. Maddin emerged from the process looking weak, his credibility damaged and civic taxpayers worse off for the experience.
Maddin now suggests that the outgoing commission couldn't circumvent a Dec. 14 deadline for informing Scott, without penalty, that his five-year contract wouldn't be renewed after June 14. In that case, it should have, at best, signed a one-year extension to Scott's existing contract. That would have given the new commissioners who take office on Jan. 1 time to conduct the public review Maddin promised and assess Scott's ability to deliver on the direction they establish for the police service before they committed Saskatoon ratepayers to a long-term deal with the chief.
By signing a three-year deal, however, the departing commissioners made themselves look arrogant and petulant. They hamstrung the decision-making of their replacements and established a costly precedent that will colour coming contract talks with many civic workers.
Maddin can admonish councillors all he wants for overstepping their bounds in criticizing the way the new contract was reached, but that doesn't make what happened right.