Prince Albert police chief retires after report into 2022 death of baby
After the release of the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) report into the circumstances surrounding the death of a 13-month-old boy last year, the Prince Albert police force finds itself in a state of uncertainty with the retirement of its chief.
Chief Jonathan Bergen announced late Thursday afternoon that he was retiring, effective May 31, after 25 years with the Prince Albert Police Service.
He said he made the decision in the best interest of the department and the city, after the PCC report into the death of 13-month-old Tanner Brass.
Bergen said he has always held himself accountable for his decisions and has been open to scrutiny.
“What I did not expect from my service and the community I trust and value, is the level of aggressive personal attack and contrived character assassination of me and my leadership team, and the cruel and misdirected emotional assault on my family, orchestrated by a select few,” he said.
“Largely the attacks have been cowardly and anonymous. For much of the last three years, it has been very public and relentless.”
The force has been criticized for several incidents in the last few years, including the death of Tanner Brass.
Bergen said an interim chief of police will be seconded from the Saskatoon city police.
The Public Complaints Commission report into the death of the boy, released on Thursday hours before Bergen announced his retirement, says two officers neglected their duty in the case.
The boy's father, Kaij Brass, is charged with second-degree murder. His trial is scheduled for next year.
“The circumstances on the morning of Feb. 10, 2022, amount to a tragic and potentially avoidable incident,” the report said. “(Tanner) was, at all relevant times, vulnerable and in danger while inside the residence with (his father).”
Kyla Frenchman, the toddler's mother, has demanded the officers be fired, alleging she was racially profiled when she called for help. The report found she went willingly to the police station with the officers because women's shelters were full and there was nowhere warm for her to go.
Her son was left with his father and killed.
The two officers involved were taken off duty pending the PCC investigation.
Saskatchewan Federation of Police Officers president Casey Ward said in a statement that the SFPO will extend its support to the interim chief during the transition period. “We understand the importance of maintaining a strong and cohesive leadership within police services, and we acknowledge the challenges that may arise during such transitions,” Ward said.
The SFPO represents 1,400 police officers.
Michelle Ouellette, the PCC chair, said the findings were submitted to the police chief to impose appropriate discipline. Bergen said for the “sake of integrity” any discipline must be handled by a new police chief.
Provincial Minister of Corrections, Policing and Public Safety Christine Tell said the details released by the PCC “highlight the need for immediate change within the Prince Albert Police Service.”