Sask. police chief asks for patience as mother, First Nations leaders seek answers in 13-month-old's death
Father of Tanner Brass charged with 2nd-degree murder, complaints commission investigating officers' actions
The police chief in Prince Albert, Sask., says he's listening to the pleas of family members and First Nations leaders demanding answers about the death of a 13-month-old boy.
But Chief Jonathan Bergen says they'll have to wait until an investigation into the officers' actions is complete before they get any more answers, or before any discipline is considered.
Bergen says the officers, accused by the Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations, the Prince Albert Grand Council and others of negligence and racism in the case, remain on duty while their actions are reviewed.
"The members that responded to the call are currently on duty, continuing to serve in their roles," Bergen told reporters this week. "Once we have the information that comes from the investigation, then we'll be in the situation to assess that and assess whether discipline is appropriate and what discipline that would be."
According to a police news release, officers went to a home in Prince Albert, about 130 kilometres northeast of Saskatoon, early in the morning of Feb. 10 after receiving a complaint of a family dispute. Tanner's mother, Kyla Frenchman was transported to police cells.
Police say they went back to the same residence five hours later for a report of a homicide involving a child and found the boy dead. The baby's father, Kaij Brass, has been charged with second-degree murder.
First Nations leaders said that when police arrived the first time, they assumed Frenchman's fears and behaviour were alcohol-related and arrested her.
In fact, the mother and child were fleeing domestic violence, they said. Police did not perform a welfare check on Tanner, nor was the Ministry of Social Services brought in for Tanner's protection, they said.
They say the death was preventable, and that police failed to do their job because they were dealing with a First Nations mother and child.
They are demanding a coroner's inquest, but also the immediate firing of Bergen and the officers involved.
The Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission has been notified and is investigating. Bergen said police will wait for those results before releasing more information or imposing any possible discipline. He said he can't imagine how hard it must be to wait for answers, but he wants to get all the facts before making any decisions.
Bergen said he values the relationship police have with all members of the community, and they will work hard to rebuild any trust that has been lost.
"The message is received loud and clear, and we're acknowledging we have much work to do to build back the trust and confidence in the community," Bergen said. "We are committed to do that."
Bergen said the two officers who responded to that call have a total of five years experience. He said the police service has since restructured to ensure more senior supervisors to oversee patrol members, he said.