Group says Saskatoon police street checks are illegal

A group of 50 local academics and social justice activists made a submission to Saskatoon's Board of Police Commissioners today at city hall.

Practice of street checks will be reviewed by Saskatchewan Police Commission

The Board of Police Commissioners is considering street checks today. (Dan Zakreski)

A group of academics and social justice activists in Saskatoon say the police practice of stopping and questioning people they deem suspicious, is illegal.

The group made a submission today to the city's Board of Police Commissioners, calling for a stop to street checks.

The Board decided to pass the submission onto the Saskatchewan Police Commission for a decision.

Glen Luther, who teaches law at the University of Saskatchewan and wrote the submission, is hopeful the provincial commission will make a thoughtful decision on the matter.

"Knowing the members of the Saskatchewan Police Commission, I would suggest they would be careful in what they're doing. And I'm sure they will read our submission with interest," Luther said. "I personally know the chair and I personally have confidence that he will do that."
University of Saskatchewan law professor Glen Luther authored the submission. (Don Somers/CBC)

He remains steadfast in his belief that street checks should be eliminated from policing. 

"Street checks should not be allowed under any circumstances. The practice should be abandoned as harmful, ineffective and unlawful. If police have reasonable grounds to pursue a lawful detention, that should occur with the necessary warnings and safeguards in place."

Police at odds with position

According to police chief Clive Weighill, questioning suspicious characters is critical to effective policing.

Weighill said, to have officers tell people that they don't have to talk to police defeats the purpose of stopping them in the first place.

But the group is not against effective policing, Luther said. They're opposed to the arbitrary nature of police checks, saying it's one thing to question someone in area where there has been a crime recently committed.

If the person is a suspect, Luther said police must then advise them of their right to a lawyer and tell them they don't have to talk. But to simply stop and question someone because police decide they look suspicious is wrong.

With files from Eric Anderson