Police Harassment Allegations Intensify Amidst Controversial Leadership Change in Prince Albert

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In the weeks leading up to a public outcry filled with accusations of personal attacks and character assassination from Jonathan Bergen, the then Chief of the beleaguered police force of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, internal documents reveal that the officers were cautioned about harassing conduct.

Bergen, who announced his retirement from the Prince Albert Police Service last May, characterized the attacks against him as “cowardly”. He pointed out an unexpected intensity of hostility directed towards him and his leadership team from the very service and community he trusted and valued. Statements from Bergen indicated these attacks were not limited to him, but also unfairly targeted his family, with a notably cruel and misplaced emotional assault.

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Reports from Bergen suggest that these incidents also consisted of offensive and harassing posters spread around the city, located 138 kilometres north of Saskatoon, which his wife and daughter were left to remove. Additionally, he alleged the unsettling occurrence of his daughter being tailed by police members.

On May 1, following these events, an internal memo outlining the circulation of an offensive, harassing poster, not merely within the community but also by members of the force itself, was disseminated to all employees of the force in Saskatchewan’s third-largest city. This memo, procured through information freedom laws, warned against sharing the poster – an activity they believed tarnished the trust and mutual respect they sought to cultivate within the team.

However, the police force declined to confirm or deny whether the former chief lodged any formal complaints regarding the poster or any other harassing actions.

In the meantime, the command of the force has been taken over by Interim Chief Patrick Nogier, formerly a superintendent in Saskatoon. Nogier refrained from commenting on the incidents predating his command, citing adherence to a confidentiality and privacy policy.

Nogier insisted on the crucial role of internal harassment policies that aligned with provincial employment legislation. He expressed that the department, comprising approximately 135 members, placed immense importance on fostering a workplace devoid of harassment and conducive to the wellness of its members.

The police service has come under severe scrutiny in recent years, intensifying with Bergen’s departure coinciding with the release of a report citing officers’ negligence leading to the death of a toddler.

Earlier this year, a 33-year-old man named Saul Laliberte died in custody, marking the third such incident within weeks. This led to a 21-year veteran of the force facing charges of criminal negligence and failing to provide the necessaries of life.

Calls for increased scrutiny and accountability emerged from The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, representing 74 First Nations in Saskatchewan.

Responding to these calls, the Saskatchewan government commissioned an independent review of the force from former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht, highlighting issues of discipline, grievances, and overall organizational impairment within Prince Albert Police.

While the full report has yet to be publicized, its 45 recommendations, such as a comprehensive policy review and the development of a conduct code for disciplining officers, have been disclosed.

Nogier has affirmed the force’s commitment to assessing and responding to these recommendations, expressing that they are unyielding in their determination to bring about effective and efficient change.