Serious Incident Response Team Established in Saskatchewan

On January 1, 2023, Saskatchewan created the Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), an independent police oversight body. SIRT has the authority to investigate incidents involving the police, Saskatchewan RCMP, and special constables, such as conservation officers and members of the Highway Patrol. By law, SIRT must publish a summary of its investigation results three months after a case is closed.

The team will look into cases where a person sustains serious injury or death while in police custody or due to police actions. SIRT also has the power to investigate claims of sexual assault or domestic violence committed by a police officer.

Saskatchewan is now the second-to-last province to introduce a civilian-led police oversight unit. The establishment of SIRT has been welcomed as a much-needed and long-awaited development by police chiefs in the province and a former head of civilian oversight in Ontario.

Moose Jaw Police Chief Rick Bourassa, who is president of the Saskatchewan Association of Chiefs of Police (SACP), said SIRT has been a goal of chiefs for a long time.

"All the chiefs of the province are very pleased. We had been asking for this independent body for quite some time and have worked very closely with the province on its implementation." source

Hunter, Adam “Sask. police chiefs welcome independent oversight body” CBC News, January 8, 2023

What are the advantages of an independent police oversight body?

An independent oversight body aims to enhance accountability, transparency, and integrity in police actions, thereby restoring public trust in police oversight. Additionally, SIRT can make recommendations for policy and procedural changes to prevent future misconduct. It also offers enhanced protection of individual rights and due process for both citizens and police officers.

Before the creation of SIRT, serious incidents were investigated by a police force from a different city, and reports were not publicly available. This approach, in which police investigate police, raised questions about fairness and impartiality. Moreover, it placed a significant burden on police resources.

As an example, the recent case of Myles Sanderson, who died in police custody after being arrested, is being investigated by SIRT and the Saskatoon Police. The presence of an independent oversight body will help to reduce police misconduct and was one of the reforms called for in the Stonechild inquiry.

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