Inquest jury recommends Saskatoon police get more muscle to halt pursuits
By The Canadian Press
By The Canadian Press
SASKATOON — An inquest jury is recommending that Saskatoon police be given heavier-duty equipment to deal with risky traffic stops, especially involving large vehicles, after a crash during a high-speed pursuit that killed a young man.
The recommendation is one of four to come from the inquest that ended on Thursday into the June 2017 death of Austin Eaglechief, who was driving a stolen pickup truck with oversized tires.
The inquest heard police had been trying for hours to arrest the 22-year-old following a report of a stolen vehicle, which was eventually blocked off in a residential area of the city.
Eaglechief rammed a police vehicle, which injured an officer, and although shots were fired at him he sped away, but was killed minutes later in a collision with another pickup.
The jury says more police vehicles should be equipped with special push bars mounted on the front to make the vehicles more effective in stopping fleeing suspects.
The panel also says police should have better equipment to flatten oversized tires, a tactical heavy-duty vehicle of their own to use in chases and a police plane available at all times.
The four-day hearing heard from 14 witnesses. Medical evidence presented showed Eaglechief was high on methamphetamine at the time of his death.
The inquest was told that during the bid to stop Eaglechief, a sergeant was at police headquarters requesting a vehicle with a push bar installed on the front bumper to deal more effectively with the stolen truck.
An officer testified that so-called stop sticks currently used to flatten tires on fleeing vehicles are not effective on large wheels, such as those that were on the stolen truck.
The inquest also heard that the police air support unit is only available for certain shifts because a pilot and camera operator are not always on hand.
The aircraft was available during the chase, but not at the time when officers first spotted Eaglechief.
Police told CTV News that only eight of 159 vehicles have push bars and that it costs $1,200 to purchase and install just one set on a cruiser.
Police are not required to implement the recommendations. The Eaglechief family lawyer said she would like that changed to have some recommendations made mandatory.
“I lost my son to a gang. I was a good parent,” Agatha Eaglechief, Austin’s mother, said after the inquest.
Asked about the recommendations she said: “It’s a step in the right direction.” (CTV Saskatoon)
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