“This is a serious allegation given the history of our service. We can’t just sit by and let people drop a bomb on Facebook and have them walk away from that.”
— Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill
Less than two weeks after the Brandon Police Service was accused of taking an aboriginal man on a starlight tour following an Idle No More protest, a similar accusation has been levelled against the Saskatoon Police Service.
Last Tuesday, police in that community say the mother of a 19-year-old man complained that her son had been taken outside Saskatoon and forced to walk home sometime the previous night.
As the Regina Leader-Post reported, the allegation spread after a woman published a Facebook post saying police had dumped her son at the city’s edge and left him there in freezing temperatures.
The teenager, who was identified as Drayton Bull, told APTN news that he doesn’t remember much about the incident, or even if he was in the back of a cruiser. Bull said he had been “highly intoxicated” and blacked out while walking to his father’s house after he hid from a police cruiser that passed him slowly on the street.
Since news of the incident broke, the Saskatoon Police Service says a review of all in-car camera video has found no evidence the 19-year-old was inside a patrol unit or that he was the subject of a police computer check. All police cruisers carry GPS as well and officials say no cars were outside the city limits during the alleged time-frame.
As of the weekend, Bull and his family had not made a formal complaint to the SPS, though police believe a statement was given to the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations.
Nonetheless, the Saskatoon police have still asked the provincial Public Complaints Commission to investigate the matter.
The Saskatoon situation is eerily similar to the Brandon incident, in which Jay Moosetail alleged on Facebook that Brandon police dropped him near the municipal airport.
As the Brandon Sun reported, Moosetail later admitted to APTN that this was untrue, though he insisted a BPS officer mocked the Idle No More movement during a run-in with the aboriginal man.
As a result, BPS filed a request to the Manitoba Department of Justice to launch an investigation into allegations of member misconduct. RCMP are said to be conducting the investigation.
As we said earlier on this page, police have done the right thing by calling for outside investigations into allegations of starlight tours and other potential member misconduct. It’s the only way to get to the truth of the matter and clear the air.
As these two investigations are ongoing, we can’t say for certain whether any disciplinary actions will be forthcoming or not. But we do hope members of the public will be careful when it comes to airing these kinds of comments on Facebook or other social media outlets.
Such public allegations, if proven untrue, unfairly smear police organizations, needlessly tie up police resources and ultimately do a disservice to individuals who may have perfectly valid complaints.
As RCMP Blue Hills Staff Sgt. Mike Zens told the Sun some days ago, Facebook is not the proper forum for such complaints. If someone wants to make a legitimate complaint, there are proper formats and forums to follow.