Government has introduced The Police Amendment Act, 2020 today as an initial step to improving police oversight in Saskatchewan.
The Act contains numerous enhancements to the Investigation Observer process to make it more transparent and accountable. Under the current legislation, an Investigation Observer is appointed by the Deputy Minister of Justice in situations where someone has suffered a serious injury or death in the custody of or as a result of the actions of a police officer.
The new legislation transfers responsibility for this process to the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) and requires the chair of the PCC to publish online summaries of the results of Investigation Observer reports.
In support of this, $350,000 has been allocated in the 2020-21 provincial budget to hire more staff to manage the increased workload that is anticipated as a result of the additional responsibilities being granted to the PCC.
“Through this Act we will be making numerous enhancements to improve transparency and accountability in our provincial police oversight processes,” Justice Minister and Attorney General Don Morgan said. “We will continue work with our partners to evaluate what our next steps will be in our ongoing efforts to improve police oversight in Saskatchewan.”
The legislation also expands the role of Investigation Observers to include investigations of sexual assaults and off-duty incidents involving police officers, requires the appointment of a second Investigation observer of First Nations or Métis ancestry in incidents involving First Nations or Métis individuals, and allows individuals other than current or retired police officers to be appointed as Investigation Observers.
“This expansion to the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Public Complaints Commission represents the most significant changes we have made to independent police oversight in this province since the commission was first established in 2006,” Corrections and Policing Minister Christine Tell said. “As a government, we will continue to work with our partners in policing and the larger community to ensure that police oversight in Saskatchewan is transparent and accountable to the public.”
The proposed changes will also implement a new process within the PCC to address complaints of workplace harassment made by police officers and civilian staff of police services. This will establish the PCC as a neutral, third-party that can receive and investigate internal complaints of sexual and workplace harassment. Saskatchewan is the first jurisdiction in Canada to implement a complaints process that address sexual and workplace harassment within police forces.
Other changes made to police oversight under the legislation include:
• implementing a new process within the PCC to address complaints against specific classes of special constables, such as Conservation Officers and Highway Traffic Officers working as part of the provincial Protection and Response Team;
• requiring police services to ask another police organization to investigate serious injuries, deaths or sexual assaults that occur in police custody or as a result of the actions of a police officer; and
• updating the Lieutenant Governor in Council’s authority to make regulations respecting special constables.