The Saskatchewan Government has introduced an act which they say is a “first step” to improving police oversight.

The province announced the Police Amendment Act on June 17th, which will work to create a more transparent means of investigating serious injuries, deaths or sexual assaults in police custody. Police services will now be required to call in another police organization to investigate these matters.

The act also takes steps to expand the role of investigation observers, who can, under the new act, investigate reports of sexual assault and off-duty incidents involving police officers.

New rules allow people other than current or retired police officers to be appointed as Investigation Observers. There will be a second Investigation observer, of First Nations or Métis ancestry, appointed in incidents involving First Nations or Métis people.

In existing legislation, the Investigation Observer would be selected by the Deputy Minister of Justice. Now, they’ll be selected by the Public Complaints Commission. The results of these investigations will be published publicly online by the commission chair.

The PCC, the government says, will also work as a neutral, third-party that can receive and investigate internal complaints of sexual and workplace harassment made by police officers or civilian staff under the Police Amendment Act. A process that extends to investigating Conservation Officers and Highway Traffic Officers working as part of the provincial Protection and Response Team will be implemented for the PPC.

$350,000 has been allocated in the Saskatchewan Provincial Budget to the PPC, for hiring more staff to manage an anticipated increased workload.