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Majority of Prince Albert police association members have 'no confidence' in chief

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Members of the association representing police officers in Prince Albert have signalled their dissatisfaction with the current direction of the police service,

In a symbolic vote, 95 per cent of voting members of the Prince Albert Police Association said they do not have confidence in Chief Jonathan Bergen.

Ninety-two of the group's 102 members took part in the vote, according to the association.

“Chief Bergen’s reckless decision-making has contributed to the deterioration of the mental health of frontline officers, pushing them to the breaking point,” the association's president Josh Peterson said.

“Our officers are frustrated by watching good officers either get pushed to the edge or simply leave for other police services.”

In a news release, the association said it initially wanted to meet with the city's board of police commissioners regarding the March 7 vote and only decided to release the results publicly after it encountered difficulty in arranging a meeting.

"But by using this tactic with us, they gave us no choice but to turn to the public to ask for help and to let them know just how bad things have become at their police service," Peterson said.

BOARD RESPONDS

The Prince Albert Board of Police Commissioners issued a news release late Friday in which it sought to clarify Peterson's "inaccurate and misleading representations."

Board member Janet Carriere said Peterson's email to the board was an "ultimatum" that gave the board until Friday to come up with a "solution."

Another board member, Sheryl Kimbley, said in the release that the board offered to meet with the association as early as March 14, within a week of the request.

"We offered another date if they needed more time to get their preparation together. We asked them to outline their concerns for us. They never got back to us."

OFFICERS SUSPENDED

The association's vote comes after 13-month-old Tanner Brass was found dead on Feb. 10 — just a few hours after police were called to the same home for a reported family dispute.

His father, Kaij Brass is charged with second-degree murder in the boy's death.

The boy's mother, Kyla Frenchman, was taken into custody during the initial call to the home.

A group of Indigenous leaders say it was Frenchman who first contacted police because she feared for Tanner's safety and allege the responding officers mistook her fear for signs of intoxication.

The leaders, who called for Bergen's dismissal earlier this month, maintain Frenchman was sober and allege that the fact Frenchman is Indigenous played a role in the incident.

"During this incident, they labelled Kyla as being drunk — despite being sober," Federation of Sovereign Indigenous Nations Vice Chief Dutch Lerat said during a March 2 news conference.

"To us, police assisted in baby Tanner's murder," Lerat said.

Following Tanner's death, Bergen asked the Public Complaints Commission (PCC) to investigate how the service handled the incident.

The two officers who initially responded stayed on the job pending the outcome of the investigation.

However, that changed on Thursday with Bergen saying the officers had been suspended with pay.

The association's criticisms focus on long-term staffing and workload concerns it believes have led to "increased safety risk to officers and the community."

The group says it is confident in the PCC's process as it reviews Tanner's death — which it describes as a "collateral issue."

“We want to begin the process of healing as a police service and as a community,” Peterson said.

“Unfortunately, it appears that process can’t begin with Chief Jon Bergen.”

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