After seven years on the job, Estevan’s police chief, Paul Ladouceur, is to step down April 16 amid mounting pressure by the police union, which is urging changes after votes of non-confidence in his role as chief.
Conversely, the city’s chairman of the board of police commissioners, Roy Ludwig, who’s also the mayor, says the union lacks “all the information,” alleging it has engaged in “conjecture.”
Ladouceur tendered his resignation with Ludwig on Thursday afternoon.
He resigns following union pressure for how he and the board of police commissioners allegedly handled Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB) claims made by the late Jay Pierson, a former Estevan police constable.
Ladouceur did not return the Leader-Post’s request for comment.
Citing confidentiality, Ludwig said he couldn’t provide details about Ladouceur’s or the board’s handling of mental health concerns officers raised.
“Unfortunately some of these people do not have all the information,” he said. “We cannot release confidential information.
“As a result, some people will conjecture and make up their own opinions, not knowing all of the background, all of the facts and of course there's nothing we can do to prevent that.”
Three different medical professionals diagnosed Pierson with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He died on March 5 of natural causes, his family says.
Pierson first filed benefit claims for his PTSD in 2017. Estevan police administrators appealed those claims through a WCB appeal process.
In June 2020 a Court of Queen’s Bench Justice ruled Pierson should have his benefits reinstated after they were denied through the WCB appeal.
Casey Ward, president of the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers (SFPO), told the Leader-Post he heard from Estevan police members “there was a real lack of support with mental health issues … They saw how Jay was treated. There are members that are hurting and they thought there would be no support if they came forward.”
Two EPS members last week called Ward, he said, to tell him “‘we're not eligible for retirement, but we're quitting, we can't work there anymore.’”
The SFPO president said Estevan members have twice called non-confidence votes for the chief over the past 12 months. In the fall of 2020, they voted — at the SFPO’s urging — to keep Ladouceur on board to work with him.
This year shortly before Pierson’s death, Ward said all but four Estevan members voted for a non-confidence motion against Ladouceur. After their colleague’s death, they “came back to the (local) president (Kevin Reed) and said 'we want to change our vote,' and they had 100-per-cent agreement of non-confidence.”
Reed did not respond to the Leader-Post’s phone calls for comment.
The SFPO on Tuesday sent a letter to Saskatchewan’s policing and corrections minister, Christine Tell, requesting “a formal review of the leadership of the Estevan Police Service (EPS),” Ward said. Tell’s office confirmed it received the letter.
In an emailed statement, Tell said, “at this time no decisions have been made regarding an inquiry into the Estevan Police Service.”
She said her ministry “places a high priority on mental health for our police services and corrections staff.”
Ludwig commended Ladouceur’s work in his service with the city. He said the chief’s securing “carbine (rifles)” for its members, getting funding through SGI to pay for new police cruisers and obtaining speed radar cameras are examples of that.
“He was able to find revenue streams that we did not have the opportunity to even be aware of in the past. He had a great relationship with SGI and with the provincial government.”
Ladouceur joined the Estevan Police Service as chief in April 2014, after working as a detective-sergeant with the Brockville, Ont. police service.
Before that, he was with the London, Ont., police force for about 11 years.
Sgt. Warren Morrical is to serve as the interim police chief, until the city finds a permanent replacement, Ludwig said.
Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post