Ya… well… I gotta say I agree with this one

Saskatoon police officers linked Stonechild death fired

Canadian Press with Globe and Mail Update

The Stonechild Inquiry

The two Saskatoon police officers linked to the death of Neil Stonechild are “each unsuitable for police service by reason of their conduct” and were dismissed Friday, the police chief announced.

They were removed from their jobs effective Friday afternoon, “for failing to dilligently and promptly report or disclose or offer material evidence” related to the case in which the aboriginal teenager was found frozen to death just outside of town, the Saskatoon police chief said.

Constables Larry Hartwig and Bradley Senger had been on suspension with pay after an inquiry found that they had had Mr. Stonechild in their custody in the hours before his 1990 death.

Their fate has been a polarizing issue in Saskatoon since the inquiry report was released late last month.

Police Chief Russell Sabo said he doesn’t believe the officers abandoned the teenager in the deserted area where his body was found, but he based his decision on a careful review of the evidence he was allowed by the Police Act.

The Stonechild affair sparked outrage in the aboriginal community and has come to symbolize their strained relations with the police.

After reading his prepared statement at police headquarters, Chief Sabo left the room without taking questions. The inquiry report by Justice David Wright rejected police claims that the officers had no involvement with the 17-year-old on the Nov. 24 night they were dispatched to a disturbance call involving him.

Constables Hartwig and Senger testified they had no independent memory of the dispatch call and their records indicated they did not find him.

But Judge Wright believed the testimony of Mr. Stonechild’s friend, Jason Roy, who said he last saw Mr. Stonechild — bleeding, handcuffed and screaming for his life — in the back of a Saskatoon police car.

Judge Wright also said parallel cuts on Mr. Stonechild’s nose and marks on his wrists were likely caused by police handcuffs.

Judge Wright stopped short of saying the officers abandoned Mr. Stonechild in the north-end industrial area where his body was found.

But he criticized the police investigation into the death as sloppy and haphazard due perhaps, he said, to concerns the trail would lead back to police.

While being disturbed by Judge Wright’s findings, Saskatchewan Justice Minister Frank Quennell maintained there is not enough evidence to press charges.

Critics had long contended that the Stonechild case was part of a larger problem. They maintained that Saskatoon police would often take suspected troublemakers to city limits and dump them there.

In 2000 — a decade after Mr. Stonechild’s death — an RCMP task force was formed to investigate the Saskatoon force after another aboriginal man, Darrell Night, came forward with a story of being dumped by officers outside the city on a cold night in January 2000.

After that investigation, Saskatoon police officers Dan Hatchen and Ken Munson were found guilty of unlawfully confining Mr. Night and served eight-month sentences. They were fired from their jobs.

Two other cases around the same time arose suspicion: Rodney Naistus, 25, was found frozen to death without a shirt near a power plant outside the city; and Lawrence Wegner, 30, was discovered frozen to death in the same area. He was wearing a T-shirt and no shoes.

No charges were ever laid in those cases and inquests couldn’t determine the circumstances surrounding the deaths.

Judge Wright wrote of the “chasm” that exists between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Saskatoon, and Judge Quennell has asked local leaders to use the report as a tool in solving some of the problems that cause that gap.

The minister has said he is looking at legislative changes to allow a civilian body to handle complaints against police in a more transparent manner.

Saskatoon police are already delivering increased sensitivity training.

The Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations is calling for a separate justice system — with their own police force and courts — to help regain aboriginal people’s trust.


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