Prince Albert, Sask., officer charged with criminal negligence in in-custody death

Prince Albert police

Prince Albert police are under fire for an in-custody death. Photo: APTN

A Saskatchewan police officer has been charged with criminal negligence causing death and failing to provide the necessities of life as the beleaguered Prince Albert force tries to maintain public confidence.

The 21-year member of the Prince Albert Police Service was charged after an investigation into the death of Saul Laliberte, 33, on Nov. 7, 2021, while he was in the force’s detention facility.

Saskatoon police investigated the death and the Crown recommended charges against the officer. The officer has been removed from active duty pending the outcome of court proceedings.

“We want to assure the public that we take every matter seriously,” Patrick Nogier, the interim police chief in Prince Albert, said in a news release Wednesday.

Prince Albert police did not identify the officer in the news release. The officer is to appear in Prince Albert Provincial Court on July 25.

Public confidence

“The Prince Albert Police Service places great importance on public confidence and continually strives to uphold the trust citizens of Prince Albert have placed in our officers,” Nogier said.

Laliberte’s death was the third to take place in police custody over a few weeks in Saskatchewan’s third-largest city, drawing scrutiny from community members and Indigenous organizations.

The Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations repeated its call for accountability and better oversight after the death of Boden Umpherville, who was seriously injured in an altercation with officers in early April.

But the force faced its most significant crisis after a report into the death of a 13-month-old Indigenous boy. The Public Complaints Commission report into the death of the boy in February 2022 found two officers neglected their duty and didn’t check on the well-being of the toddler in the hours before the child was killed.

The boy’s father has been charged with second-degree murder and his trial is scheduled for next year.

Former police chief 

The former police chief, Jonathan Bergen, announced his retirement in May after the release of the report, saying he was facing aggressive personal attacks and a “contrived character assassination,” including by members of his own force.

Last year, the Saskatchewan government appointed former Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht to conduct an independent review of the force amid ongoing concerns over operations.

The review has been completed but Saskatchewan’s public safety minister has not said whether it will be publicly released.

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