The Moose Jaw Police Service and the Saskatchewan RCMP say they are taking recommendations seriously that were made by a jury during the coroner’s inquest into the death of Jeremy Sabourin. 

The inquest ruled the Sabourin died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head while in a Moose Jaw Police Service holding cell on Oct. 7, 2021. The inquest learned the gun used was concealed inside Sabourin’s pants that was missed by Assiniboia RCMP, who arrested Sabourin, and the MJPS. 

Moose Jaw Police Chief Rick Bourassa said they are taking steps to make sure all recommendations are implemented. 

“Right from the moment the incident happened, we were delving into our processes and, yeah, it should not have happened and it did,” Bourassa said. 

“We were on top of that right from the very beginning to make sure that we had everything in place to prevent future situations from happening.” 

Discover Moose Jaw reached out to the Saskatchewan RCMP’s communications team for an interview about the jury’s recommendations and received the following response: 

“The Saskatchewan RCMP takes any recommendations regarding our policing services made by the Saskatchewan Coroners Service and the jury as a result of a Coroners Inquest seriously. The recommendations will be thoroughly examined by our Criminal Operations Branch and responses provided to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service.” 

Following an investigation and learning that policies were not followed, Bourassa said the MJPS took immediate action. 

He said signage was put up to remind officers of the policy to use metal detector wands on all prisoners being taken in, and the deputy chief met with all the supervisors to review the policy again. 

“Conducting proper searches and making sure people are wanded and whose responsibility that is has been reminded to people for a long time and we will continue to do that in our twice annual training sessions,” Bourassa said. 

One question that kept coming up at the inquest was “Whose job is it to ensure policies are followed and that officers are aware of the policies?” 

Bourassa said it is up to every officer. All officers are responsible for familiarizing themselves with the policies, and it is up to the supervisors to ensure they are followed. 

“It is up to the police service’s chief to make sure we have all the policies and that they are communicated out through our different layers of supervision. And then, we expect every member to be aware of and follow those policies and we expect the supervisors and managers to make sure that those are being followed,” Bourassa said. 

Disciplinary action was also taken. Const. Chris Flanagan testified at the inquest that he was the staff sergeant in charge at the time of the incident. As a result of the incident, Flanagan said he was demoted to constable, suspended and had to retake certification courses. 

The jury’s finding included five recommendations for both the RCMP and MJPS. The first recommendation was that all new members become familiar with applicable policies and all members shall review the policies on an annual basis and document completion. 

“We have an informal audit process through our supervisory chain, but we will formalize that to be in compliance with the recommendation. We’ll have that in place fairly soon,” Bourassa said. 

The second recommendation was to implement annual testing and qualifications of members on approved physical and wand search techniques, with testing to be conducted by an external policy agency. 

Bourassa said that recommendation is part of their use of force mandatory certification and qualification training. 

The jury recommended that members receive annual mandatory mental health and suicide crisis training. Bourassa said that training hasn’t been available annually, but the MJPS are looking to several mental health training courses and plan to implement more of them in the near future. 

The fourth recommendation was to formalize a policy compliance audit process, with audits taking place at least once per year. Bourassa responded saying the MJPS is working with its policy development team and legal counsel to come up with an audit process. He also noted that the MJPS had a detention facility audit by the Saskatchewan Police Commission about three years ago to make sure correct policies and procedures were in place. 

The fifth recommendation was that breach of policy involving searching a prisoner should be considered a serious matter with appropriate disciplinary measures taken. 

“Sometimes it’s simply a coaching discussion with the member supervisor and the member. Sometimes it goes to a more formal disciplinary process, which it did in this case, and the discipline was robust but necessary,” Bourassa said. 

The jury also gave two recommendations to the MJPS to ensure members complete, in full, applicable forms on prisoners coming into their custody and modify their custody intake form to include a field for non-responsiveness. 

Recommendations to the RCMP only included having a minimum of two wands available at each detachment for searches, modifying the C13 prisoner intake form with more space for information to be written and clearly indicate which fields are mandatory to be filled in before a prisoner is transferred to another agency, and review search procedures and “the disadvantage position” used by the RCMP to determine if it is effective and in line with best practices of policing.