'Nothing erodes public confidence and trust more' than police investigating police, says Sask. lawyer

Saskatchewan needs an independent body to investigate police, a criminal lawyer said following a fatal police shooting in North Battleford.

Calls for change follow fatal shooting of man in North Battleford by RCMP over weekend

Donald Worme, a Saskatoon lawyer and co-founder of the Indigenous Bar Association, says Saskatchewan is behind other provinces when it comes to investigating the police.

Saskatchewan is behind the rest of the country when it comes to investigating the police, says the founder of the Indigenous Bar Association.

"Nothing erodes public confidence and trust more than the suggestion that police are investigating themselves," said longtime Saskatoon criminal lawyer Don Worme.

"Saskatchewan is late in terms of coming to certain recognitions. Saskatchewan has perhaps been a little slow."

Over the weekend, RCMP say they received a call from a man who said he had been chased and shot at from a vehicle.

RCMP later located the suspected vehicle in North Battleford and gave chase. The pursuit ended when police say the vehicle rammed into a cruiser.

Brydon Bryce Whitstone, 22, of Onion Lake, Sask., is dead after North Battleford RCMP fired shots on Saturday night. (David Hutton/CBC News)

Shortly after, police fatally shot 22-year-old Brydon Bryce Whitstone, a member of the Onion Lake Cree Nation.

RCMP say the investigation will be handled by the Regina Police Service. There will also be an independent person overseeing that investigation.

A 28-year-old woman who was the passenger in the vehicle at the time of the shooting was charged with possession of stolen property.

Worme says it's a "good start" good to see an outside force investigating and an independent person providing oversight — but Ontario, Alberta and other provinces have gone much further.

Those provinces have dedicated, independent agencies to look into any questions about police. The families are briefed and some oversight bodies can ask investigators to do more if questions remain.

Worme says these regulatory bodies provide a thorough look at the incidents. They also increase public confidence in the justice system.

"It gives comfort to members of the public that it will be transparent, that there will be some accountability," Worme said.

"We certainly have a different way of doing it in Saskatchewan. Is it the best way? I'm not convinced that it is."

Worme said it's also extremely important that the investigations be done "as quickly as possible."

Whitstone died while he was being transported to hospital for treatment. (Supplied)

Worme said these incidents can lead to a wave of speculation. He said the families, the police and the public should have rapid access to the facts "rather than rumour or innuendo."

Worme said there should also be Indigenous participation involved in these investigations. The Indigenous Bar Association and other groups have long called for more Indigenous perspectives and people throughout the justice system.

Worme, who played a key role in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, said Saskatchewan has been slower than other provinces to respond to those 94 calls to action.

He said there are many good people in the justice system, but much more needs to be done.

​Drew Wilby of Saskatchewan's Ministry of Justice said Sunday that their "thoughts are with everyone involved in this incident.

Earlier this year, Wilby told CBC News it may be time to consider an independent agency to investigate police.

"The public need confidence in the system, and they need to know that the system is operating appropriately," Wilby said in March.

"It's something that we need to look at what's working in other jurisdictions."

With files from Dan Zakreski