Author seeks to clear police with new book

For years, it was common knowledge that Saskatoon police would sometimes take intoxicated indigenous people for a ride to the edge of town, drop them off and let them find their way home.

There was even a name for it, “starlight tours.”

The undocumented practice remained firmly in the realm of hearsay and urban legend until September 2001, when a jury found two Saskatoon police officers, Kenneth Munson and Daniel Hatchen guilty of unlawful confinement for, in January 2000, taking Darrell Night for a so-called starlight tour. A Queen’s Bench justice sentenced Munson and Hatchen to eight months in prison.

Also in 2000, the bodies two other indigenous men, Rodney Naistus and Lawrence Wegner, were found on the outskirts of Saskatoon. Although there were allegations the men were victims of starlight tours, coroner’s inquests found no police involvement in their deaths due to hypothermia.

The cases also prompted the re-examination by RCMP of a 1990 case in which the body of 15-year-old Neil Stonechild was found in a field outside the city.

A 2003-2004 inquest concluded there was insufficient evidence to make any conclusions about the circumstances surrounding Stonechild’s death. Nevertheless, two officers, Larry Hartwig and Brad Senger, were implicated during the investigation and inquiry and later fired.

In a new book titled When Police Become Prey: The Cold, Hard Facts of Neil Stonechild’s Freezing Death, author Candis McLean argues Hartwig’s and Senger’s dismissals are a case of justice derailed.

Yorkton readers had an opportunity to hear all about it first hand when McLean and Hartwig appeared at Coles Bookstore on November 8 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Both the author and the former officer have local connections. Hartwig’s parents still live in the area and McLean grew up here getting her start in 1965 as a 16-year-old columnist for The Enterprise, the predecessor of this publication.

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