Troy Cooper will be Saskatoon's first Métis police chief
After 31 years of policing in Prince Albert, Cooper takes over in Saskatoon next month
Calling Saskatoon "the gold standard for policing in Canada," Troy Cooper was welcomed Wednesday as Saskatoon's new police chief.
Originally from Big River, Sask., Cooper — who will be officially sworn in next month — will also be the first Métis person to lead the Saskatoon Police Service.
"When you look at me you can see I've gone through life as a Caucasian male, so the [Métis] status is something I rarely talk about publicly," Cooper told reporters Wednesday.
"There's been so many lived experiences of people who are of Métis descent and Indigenous people that I haven't shared."
Cooper said he has rarely spoken about his background during the 31 years he spent as a Prince Albert, Sask., police officer.
"Growing up in the north and policing in Prince Albert has exposed me to culture," Cooper said. "I participated in ceremonies, I've tried to understand and learn culture, and I've been exposed to family connections to culture."
Cooper was hired based on his extensive policing experience, and his strength in building relationships, said Darlene Brander, who chairs Saskatoon's police commission.
"We wanted a police chief who focuses on meaningful connections with people in the community," she said. "Relationship building is a day in, day out core part of their job."
City still leads in Crime Severity Index
Former police Chief Clive Weighill announced his retirement in June after leading the Saskatoon Police Service for 11 years.
Deputy chief of operations Mark Chatterbok has served as the city's interim chief since October.
Cooper takes over a police force once best known across Canada for notorious "Starlight Tours."
A judicial inquiry later ruled police botched the investigation because they either knew or suspected fellow officers were involved. Officers Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger were fired but never criminally charged.
In 2001, two Saskatoon police officers were sentenced to eight months in jail for unlawful confinement after driving an intoxicated Darrell Night to a power plant at the city limits.
On a January night in 2000, as temperatures dipped to –22 C, Night walked back to the city wearing only light clothing, including a T-shirt and denim jacket.
Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner both froze to death near Saskatoon's Queen Elizabeth power plant within a week of each other later that same month.
Subsequent coroner's inquests heard from witnesses who claimed they saw both Naistus and Wegner interacting with police before their deaths.
The juries at those inquests were unable to determine the circumstances around the deaths, but both made numerous recommendations aimed at improving police procedures and reporting.
As well, Saskatoon continues to lead the country in the national Crime Severity Index. In 2016, Saskatoon ranked second in the country behind Regina.
Mayor Charlie Clark said the city made strides under Weighill, but wanted to focus on preventing crime rather than spending all the force's energy on enforcement.
"I'm very pleased and honoured and excited to welcome Troy Cooper," Clark said Wednesday as he shook Cooper's hand. "Help make this city a successful, healthy, equal city with opportunities for everyone and safe streets for our community."
Cooper said policing in Prince Albert has given him the background to lead Saskatoon's police force.
"They have very similar challenges around crime trends and business practices," Cooper said of the two cities.
One of his first tasks will be implementing the findings of an audit of the Saskatoon Police Service, commissioned by the police board.
"Drugs are driving things like property crime, gang involvement, weapons calls, so we need to spend our limited resources on the root causes of those crimes, which would be drug trafficking and chronic offenders," said Cooper.
- This story has been updated to include additional information about the men involved in the "Starlight Tours."Jan 31, 2018 5:47 PM CT