Skip to main content

Independent police oversight team officially active in Saskatchewan

Share

A new independent police oversight body is officially operating in the province.

Legislation formally established the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) on Jan. 1, 2023, although the team was originally scheduled to begin operation in the fall of 2021.

"The Act coming into force completes the transition to a civilian-led, independent police oversight body and brings Saskatchewan's police oversight regime into line with most other Canadian jurisdictions,” said Minister of Justice and Attorney General Bronwyn Eyre.

The team was created to independently investigate municipal police officers, Saskatchewan RCMP and special constables such as highway traffic patrol members and conservation officers.

SIRT investigations will take place when a person suffers serious injury or death while in police custody or as a result of police officers’ actions.

The team will also investigate sexual assault or interpersonal violence allegations involving police.

Greg Gudelot was appointed as the civilian executive director of SIRT in June 2021. He also leads the Public Complaints Commission.

"The people of Saskatchewan rightly hold their police officers to a high standard," Gudelot said in a news release.

"A fully-operational SIRT ensures that serious incidents involving Saskatchewan police will be investigated through an independent and transparent process designed to ensure a fair and high-quality investigation for all those involved."

Saskatchewan is the last of the western provinces to establish a civilian-led police oversight team.

Alberta formed a group in 2008. British Columbia established its team in 2012 and Manitoba created its organization in 2015.

Saskatchewan’s NDP said the creation of the oversight body is long overdue.

“It’s something that’s been called for for over a decade now,” said NDP MLA Nicole Sarauer.

“It’s something that we were even hearing from police that they wanted there to be a level of independence in the work that they were doing, in the oversight of the work that they were doing.”

Gudelot recognized there have been calls from the public for an independent police oversight team. He said the plans for this organization have been in the works for a while.

“We’re rolling out a team now because the public confidence in Saskatchewan police has historically been quite high,” he said.

Prior to SIRT’s establishment, other police services investigated serious incidents involving police officers.

SIRT has been partially operational since April 2022 when the team hired its first investigator, according to Gudelot. Since then, the group has opened a file on every serious incident, including the death of Myles Sanderson—the man responsible for the stabbings deaths at James Smith Cree Nation and Weldon.

“We sent our own investigative resources out there not just to watch but assist where necessary with that investigation,” Gudelot said, adding the province appointed SIRT as an investigative observer while Saskatoon Police Service lead the investigation.

Under the legislation, SIRT must appoint a First Nations or Metis community liaison officer in matters when the individual involved is of First Nations or Metis ancestry.

Summaries of all SIRT investigations will be published online for the public to view.

Sarauer questions how transparent the official summaries will be, but said only time will tell.

“We would like to see more transparency rather than less. I think both policing organizations and community members want to see the same thing,” Sarauer said.

Gudelot said there are checks and balances to ensure SIRT remains as impartial and transparent as possible.

SIRT is a branch of the PCC, which is a five-person non-police entity that investigates complaints made against municipal police. Gudelot reports to the PCC chairperson.

“I like to refer to as oversight of the oversight,” Gudelot said.

“It’s an extra guarantee for the public both of the independence of the team and also that the body that we report to is itself independent.”

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

BUDGET 2024

BUDGET 2024 Feds cutting 5,000 public service jobs, looking to turn underused buildings into housing

Five thousand public service jobs will be cut over the next four years, while underused federal office buildings, Canada Post properties and the National Defence Medical Centre in Ottawa could be turned into new housing units, as the federal government looks to find billions of dollars in savings and boost the country's housing portfolio.

Lululemon unveils first summer kit for Canada's Olympic and Paralympic teams

Lululemon showed off its collection for the Summer Olympics and Paralympics on Tuesday at the Liberty Grand entertainment complex. Athletes sported a variety of selections during a fashion show that featured garments to be worn on the podium, during opening and closing ceremonies, media interviews and daily life on the ground in France.

Stay Connected