Two Saskatoon law enforcement officials on canine unit charged with aggravated assault – Saskatoon

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article stated canine teams undergo six weeks of training. In fact, canine teams undergo 16 weeks of training.

Saskatoon Police Service says two of its officers are facing charges of aggravated assault after two separate and unrelated incidents in 2019 and 2020.

Both officers charged are assigned to administrative duties, SPS says, pending the outcome of proceedings in court. Their canine partners have been removed from active duty but will continue to train.

In the first instance, an officer assigned to the canine unit with 13 years of service with the SPS has been charged in relation to a response to an evade police incident.

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According to a SPS release, around 8:50 pm on July 12, 2019, patrol officers saw a man in a vehicle who was wanted on outstanding warrants.

Officers attempted a traffic stop, but SPS said the suspect refused to stop. The Air Support Unit monitored the vehicle from above and led responding units to an alley behind Milton Street where the suspect left the vehicle and fled on foot.

SPS say the officer began issuing commands for the suspect to stop but he continued to run.

“The police service dog was deployed and engaged the suspect as other officers attempted to take him into custody,” SPS stated.

The man was taken to hospital and treated for a dog bite.

SPS say the suspect vehicle and license plate were found to be stolen. The suspect was charged with possession of stolen property over $5,000, evade police, possession of false identity documents and mischief.

The complainant in the July 2019 incident told Global News said he used a fake $20 bill at a gas station in the Confederation Drive area that day.

When he drove away, he noticed a police car.

“They initiated the chase. I ran. I was scared, I was by myself, I was an addict at the time,” Justin Soroka said.

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Soroka alleges he was in the alley when he was tackled by four officers.

Soroka said he was “screaming” and “freaked out” during the interactions and was also using drugs and drinking at the time of the incident.

“I (had) almost 1,000 lbs of man and muscle on top of me, (I was) just trying to breathe for crying out loud. There’s no way I (was) going anywhere,” Soroka said.

Soroka alleges he heard one of the officers tell him to stop resisting or he would release his dog.

“That was it. I blacked out — the dog bit me — I blacked out instantly,” Soroka said.

SPS police chief Troy Cooper told reporters Const. Cole Miklautsch deployed his canine partner before Soroka was contained.

“Const. Miklautsch began issuing commands for the suspect to stop, however he continued to flee. The police service dog was deployed and engaged the suspect as other officers attempted to take him into custody,” Cooper said at a press conference Thursday.

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Soroka said one of his achilles tendons was ruptured and he underwent three skin grafts. He said he has been placed on disability since being released from a correctional facility.

Soroka confirmed he was found guilty of the charges laid against him by Saskatoon police.

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He claims the incident ruined his life — driving him to homelessness, leaving him unable to work and after three years he is still unable to walk normally.

Global News attempted to reach the officers charged, as well as their lawyers, through the SPS and the Saskatoon Police Association but did not hear back before publication.

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A second member assigned to the canine who also has 13 years of service with SPS, Const. Dennis Baron, is charged in connection with a response to a break and enter.

According to SPS, the officer was first on the scene of a break and enter in progress to a fenced compound on June 1, 2020 around 9 pm

A man matching the suspect description was found running from the scene.

“Commands were issued to stop, however the male continued to flee. The police service dog was deployed and engaged the suspect.”

The man was treated for a dog bite.

The suspect was charged with break and enter, possession of methamphetamine, possession of psilocybin (mushrooms), and breach of conditions.

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The SPS say they were later notified by the Provincial Complaints Commission that formal complaints had been received and an investigation into each incident had begun.

The SPS was notified on April 21 of this year that based on the PCC investigation, the crown recommended charges of aggravated assault.

A court date has been scheduled for May 18, 2022 at 2 pm at Saskatoon Provincial Court.

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Deputy chief Mitch Yuzdepski said the canine program at SPS has been running for more than 54 years and trainers meet the Saskatchewan Police Commission standard for police service dogs.

He added trainers are also certified by the Canadian Police Canine Association.

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Yuzdepski said the canine teams are trained in agility, obedience, tracking, criminal apprehension and person and evidence searches.

He said all teams undergo 16 weeks of training and after meeting the provincial standard, they are required to be revalidated every year. He said teams train almost every day.

“The standard for obedience is very high and all of our teams have met the standard,” Yuzdepski said.

Going back to the teams involved in the 2019 and 2020 incidents, Yuzdepski said both met the standards.

Yuzdepski said the canines are trained to apprehend a suspect in three instances: if the handler is threatened, if the canine is threatened, or if the canine is ordered to do so by the handler.

“They are trained to apprehend by biting and holding,” Yuzdepski said.

He added he does not know the specific details of the two incidents in question.

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