Civilian-led independent model for police oversight introduced by Sask government

Legislation has been introduced which will lead to police no longer investigating their counterparts in Saskatchewan.

If passed, The Police (Serious Incident Response Team) Amendment Act, 2021 will create a civilian-led independent body to investigate serious incidents involving police officers.

“After looking and seeing what’s happening across the country, talking to police officers and police chiefs, we decided to go with an independent model that is consistent with what is happening in other provinces,” said Justice Minister Gord Wyant on the importance of police oversight and transparency with this program.

Acting under a civilian executive director, SIRT members will investigate all matters where a person has suffered a sexual assault, serious injury, or death while in the custody of the police or as a result of the actions of a police officer. Investigations may also be conducted in other incidents where the executive director believes it is in the public interest to do so.

$287,000 has been set aside in the 2021-2022 provincial budget to develop the program. Wyant hopes to have an executive director for SIRT hired by July so they can then begin hiring investigators.

“This is certainly an evolving file, and to the extent we will need additional resources to support the work we want to do at SIRT, we will certainly look to do that,” added Wyant.

The proposed amendments ensure the SIRT includes Indigenous representation by requiring an appointment of a First Nations or Métis community liaison if the victim is of First Nations or Métis ancestry.

Appointed liaisons will assist the executive director and perform functions such as coordinating with the family of the victim and advising investigators on community interactions. The executive director will also have discretion to appoint a community liaison in all other matters.

The SIRT is expected to become operational in the fall of 2021, once staffing and training are completed.

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