3 in-custody deaths 'devastating loss for families': Prince Albert Police Service

·2 min read
Three people have died while in custody of Prince Albert police in the past month. (Prince Albert Police Service - image credit)
Three people have died while in custody of Prince Albert police in the past month. (Prince Albert Police Service - image credit)

The Prince Albert Police Service is calling three recent in-custody deaths a tragedy and acknowledging community concerns about the safety and oversight of people being held in police cells.

The comments were issued in a news release Wednesday, Nov. 10, in which a spokesperson said the three in-custody deaths within 30 days were a "devastating loss for the families."

"As a police organization, we also acknowledge the stress and anxiety on our members and staff, including our front-line officers and detention area staff," spokesperson Charlene Tebbutt stated in the release.

The Saskatchewan Coroners Service and Saskatoon City Police were brought in to investigate after a 33-year-old man died in Prince Albert police custody on Sunday.

He had been arrested on outstanding warrants earlier that afternoon and was found unresponsive in a cell around 7:30 p.m. CST, according to police.

Attempts to revive him failed and he was pronounced dead at Victoria Hospital.

On Oct. 12, a 29-year-old man died at Royal University Hospital in Saskatoon one week after being taken into Prince Albert Police custody.

A 35-year-old man was found unresponsive in his cell at a Prince Albert detention centre Oct. 11. He was pronounced dead at Victoria Hospital.

The deaths prompted concern from community members, including Grand Chief Brian Hardlotte of the Prince Albert Grand Council.

"If you have the power to detain people then you have the responsibility to ensure that they are safe," Hardlotte stated in a news release.

Hardlotte acknowledged the difficulty in dealing with people with addictions.

"Anything short of having proper medical staff and equipment to make sure prisoners are safe is unacceptable."

Tebbutt's statement said a pilot partnership with Parkland Ambulance and the Saskatchewan Health Authority provides on-site medical care and supervision in the cell block every day between 7:30 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. CST.

It also said the deaths are being investigated by independent, outside police agencies and could take months or years to complete.

"Our organization recognizes the strain that can result from such investigations and the impact that these investigations can have on trust and relationships within the community."

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