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Sask. coroners inquest calls for improved search techniques, training following 2021 in-custody death

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Warning: This story contains descriptions of suicide.

A Saskatchewan Coroners Service inquest has called for changes in the way police across the province conduct and catalogue searches following the 2021 in-custody death of Jeremy Sabourin.

Sabourin, 40, was transported to the Moose Jaw Police Service (MJPS) by Assiniboia RCMP on Oct. 6, 2021.

The following morning at around 9:25, Sabourin died due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head.

It was discovered that Sabourin had been in possession of a concealed handgun while in custody.

According to his obituary, Sabourin was a member of the Saskatchewan Handgun Association and served as a local safety officer for years.

The inquest, which ran from April 15-18 at Moose Jaw’s Heritage Inn Hotel, saw a six-person jury produce a long list of recommendations for both the RCMP and the MJPS to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Annual testing and qualifications for members on approved physical and wand search techniques was proposed – with the testing to be conducted by an external agency.

Mandatory annual mental health and suicide crisis training as well as a formalized policy compliance audit process was also put forward.

The jury recommended that a breach of policy involving the search of a prisoner be considered a “serious matter and engage disciplinary processes where appropriate.”

The findings also outlined that all new members of both services should become familiar and review all applicable policies on an annual basis as well as document completion.

To the RCMP, the jury called for a minimum of two wands to be made available at each detachment for searches.

Additionally, changes to the C13 form were called for, specifically for more space to be provided and to clearly indicate which fields are mandatory to be filled in before a prisoner is transferred to another agency.

Finally, the jury called for the RCMP to review its search procedure and the disadvantage position used by the RCMP to determine if it is effective and in line with the best practices of policing.

Specifically for the MJPS, the jury called for the service to ensure its members complete full, applicable forms on prisoners coming into their custody. Additionally, the jury recommended the custody intake form to include a field for non-responsiveness.

The inquest report also contained a message to all police services across Saskatchewan.

“Prisoners are taken into custody by various police and law enforcement agencies across the province,” the report read.

“This incident could happen at any of them and so these recommendations are equally relevant to them as well.”

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