The interim chief of the Prince Albert Police Service (PAPS) is speaking after one of the service’s officers was charged in relation to an in custody death in 2021.

In a media release sent out Wednesday morning PAPS said one of their officers was charged with criminal negligence causing death along with failing to provide the necessities of life. The release said the officer is set to be in Prince Albert Provincial Court July 25.

Speaking with MBC Radio News, interim PAPS chief Patrick Nogier defended the decision to not release the name of the officer charged, saying the disclosure of the charges along with the court date are sufficient for the time being.

“I think we’ve done our due diligence to provide sufficient information that would allow any organization, such as yours, or any accredited media outlet the opportunity to determine who we’re dealing with in this circumstance,” he said.

The charges against the 21 year member of PAPS date back to Nov 7 2021 when 33-year-old Saul Laliberte died while in police custody. Laliberte was found unresponsive in his cell and was taken by paramedics to Victoria Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Because Laliberte’s death was considered to be an in custody death it was investigated by the Saskatoon Police Service.

Nogier said with the matter now before the courts the officer will be away from work.

“I made the decision that an officer within the organization needed to be relieved from duty pending the outcome of the allegations, because we want to be an organization that trusts and supports process,” he said.

When it comes to the charged officers’ employment, the interim chief said with the charges now before the court he cannot say what the future holds on that specific front.

“It would be very premature (to) make a decision on any type of future, we will trust the system, we will participate with the system and ultimately when there’s a decision that would be something that’d have to be evaluated at a later time,” said Nogier.

Since Laliberte’s death in 2021, Nogier said PAPS has made changes when it comes policies in their detention area. This includes having paramedics on duty in the holding cell area, Nogier said work is underway to ensure their is a paramedic present 24 hours a day as currently the medics only work 12 hour shifts. He added PAPS is also waiting on an audit from the provincial government which could lead to more changes.

“I can tell you that they’ve implemented quite a few changes that I think are really good steps in the right direction,” said Nogier.

The interim PAPS chief had not spoken to front line officers since the charges were announced. However, Nogier said he did plan to meet with PAPS front line officers and answer any question they may have, which he said is important. Despite the current situation Nogier said he does not have any concerns about officers carrying out their duties in a professional manner.

“I am quite confident that they’ll do that without having any impact on what we provide as a policing service,” he said.