'People are concerned about Mr. Penner': Saskatoon mayor calls arrest video 'difficult to watch'
SASKATOON -- Mayor Charlie Clark says the video of Saskatoon police officers using force during the arrest of Evan Penner, an Indigenous man, was hard to watch and points to the need for changes in policing in the city and the province.
“This video of the interactions between the police and Evan Penner is coming at a time where we are in the middle of a very important and challenging conversation about the role of police in dealing with mental health and addictions issues, the use of force of police and questions around training and de-escalation,” said Clark.
The video shared on social media, shows an officer pinning a man to the ground and striking him multiple times during an arrest before being joined by several police officers who take additional measures, including the use of a Taser.
In a statement shared on Monday, Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) says an officer has been placed on leave while the incident is reviewed.
“Anytime you see a video where the whole community is exposed and it’s difficult to watch it has an incredible ripple effect. People are concerned about Mr. Penner, the neighbourhood, about how this could happen and about the situations the police are facing every day,” Clark said while talking to reporters during an event at Prairieland Park.
There are currently a number of teams where of Saskatoon police officers and mental health workers respond to mental health and addictions calls but the mayor said the teams are very limited to address the issue.Two weeks ago, the Saskatoon Board of Police Commissioners put forward two resolutions.
The first resolution was to do an investigation into how many mental health and addictions cases do Saskatoon police respond to. The second resolution was related to improving police oversight.
Clark says the board is collecting data to make improvements but he wants the province to assist in creating legislative, resource and funding changes from the provincial government.
“To have the right mechanisms in place to ensure that the police have the right training and protocols to deal with these situations," Clark said.
"Right now, Saskatchewan is behind the rest of the country when it comes to independent police oversight. In too many cases, if there is a serious incident, the police end up investigating the police, one service investigates another, that doesn’t lead to confidence in the investigations."
On Monday, SPS said the Saskatchewan Public Complaints Commission will be responsible for an independent investigation and has spoken to the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Corrections and Policing about ensuring there is appropriate oversight.