Rare inquiry into workplace culture, health supports launched at Estevan Police Service

·4 min read
The Saskatchewan Police Commission is conducting a broad inquiry into the Estevan Police Service.  (Estevan Police/Twitter - image credit)
The Saskatchewan Police Commission is conducting a broad inquiry into the Estevan Police Service. (Estevan Police/Twitter - image credit)

A rare type of inquiry has been launched to look into the Estevan Police Service, including everything from the role of its chief and board of police commissioners to the service's workplace culture.

The probe will also examine the Saskatchewan police force's "health and well-being supports for police officers," according to a release Thursday from the provincial Ministry of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety.

The announcement of the inquiry comes only months after Paul Ladouceur resigned his post as Estevan police chief.

As reported by the Regina Leader-Post, Ladouceur's exit happened amid a dispute between the force's union and the board of police commissioners about how the board allegedly handled Workers' Compensation Board claims made by Jay Pierson, an Estevan officer who died of natural causes back in March, according to his family.

Warren Morrical is acting as police chief while the search for Ladouceur's permanent replacement continues.

Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig told CBC News the city requested the inquiry on behalf of the board of police commissioners and welcomes its findings.

"Earlier this spring, we had some controversy and we'd just like to air out any concerns and get things rectified if there are any issues," Ludwig said.

Estevan Police Service
Estevan Police Service

The ministry previously said it received a letter from the Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers asking for a formal review of the Estevan Police Service's leadership.

A spokesperson for the ministry said community members have also reached out to express their concerns.

Casey Ward, the federation's president, said the federation and union raised issues "that have to do with the leadership there, governance, and the biggest one was the culture and mental health of the members."

Jay Pierson's experience brought the latter issue to public light, Ward said.

"He was diagnosed by multiple doctors" with post-traumatic stress disorder, Ward said of Pierson.

But the Workers' Compensation Board "kept on denying the claims. The chief and the board of police commissioners were not supporting Pierson in his claim and trying to get help," said Ward.

"We just want to make sure that the members have the right support so that if they are struggling with any issues mentally or physically, they can go to their employer and be supported."

CBC News has reached out to the union and the police service for comment.

Roy Ludwig
Roy Ludwig

Mayor Ludwig, who is also the chair of the board of police commissioners, said the federation has made some unfounded accusations.

He said it is up to the commission whether to incorporate the Pierson file into the inquiry.

"Let's be transparent and moving forward," Ludwig said. "If there are any issues, let's deal with them and turn the page."

Asked if he's concerned the ongoing inquiry will cause residents to question the quality of its police service, Ludwig said, "No, I don't look at it that way. We've got a good police board. We've got a good police service."

Last Sask. police service inquiry was 2012

Inquiries of this type — conducted under section 89(1) of Saskatchewan's Police Act — are rare, said Cory Zaharuk, the executive director of the Saskatchewan Police Commission.

The last such inquiry under the act, which looked into the File Hills First Nation Police Service, happened in 2012, Zaharuk said.

Only one other inquiry has happened since the Police Act came into effect in 1990, the ministry spokesperson said.

The act says inquiries can look into areas including:

  • The extent of crime or standard of law enforcement in any municipality.

  • The competency or adequacy of personnel of a police service.

  • The adequacy and standard of equipment used by a police service.

Aaron Fox, a lawyer specializing in criminal law, professional discipline and civil litigation, has been tapped to lead the Estevan inquiry.

The commission will provide a report to the minister and the board and the report may include a number of recommendations, the ministry spokesperson said.

The inquiry is expected to last into the fall.

Ludwig said the board of police commissioners has been meeting with the union every month.

"We just had a meeting here a while ago and we said, 'any concerns at that time?' There was no real concerns," he said.

Ward, the federation president, echoed that sentiment.

"Although the inquiry is going forward, great strides have been made," Ward said. "The association has met with the board and brought up a bunch of their concerns. And the board is listening to them."

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