Calgary Police Service say change needed on officer discipline protocols

Calgary Police Service say change needed on officer discipline protocols



a man wearing a uniform: Mark Neufeld, Calgary Police Chief, speaks to reporters after a day of discussion at City Hall on future policing budgets in Calgary. Thursday, September 10, 2020.


© Brendan Miller/Postmedia
Mark Neufeld, Calgary Police Chief, speaks to reporters after a day of discussion at City Hall on future policing budgets in Calgary. Thursday, September 10, 2020.

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A video of a white Calgary police officer slamming a Black woman face first into the floor has been viewed over 10 million times on social media in recent days, drawing international criticism of the local force.

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Police Chief Mark Neufeld spoke candidly on Friday about officer misconduct, though not in relation to this specific case as it is before the courts, calling it a “massive disservice” to good officers.

“We know the organization is made up of really great people who don’t condone that type of attitude,” said Neufeld. “We certainly don’t condone it and it sickens me to have to deal with that.

“The actions of those folks who are going out there and eroding the trust and confidence in our police service — and then (there’s) the men and women who are doing a good job — are doing a massive disservice to all of us and every Calgarian.”

The chief made the comments after being asked about his reaction to remarks posted by Coun. Jyoti Gondek earlier in the day.

Gondek, who recently stepped down from the police commission after three years, criticized the service’s “technical response” as to why Const. Alexander Dunn, who was charged with on-duty assault of a woman in custody, remained with the service.

She said the Calgary Police Service owes the public a better explanation.

“The public is not interested in hearing about the limitations CPS faces or the inability to take disciplinary action while the case is before the courts,” she wrote on social media. “We want to know what leadership will do to ensure it can never happen again.

“Make a statement that shows you understand the gravity of the issue. Calgarians need to hear from CPS leadership that they understand unethical service members are not just ‘bad apples.’ These are officers who hold power and have no desire to follow either the rules of the CPS or civil society.”

Gondek said the police need to condemn the officers who “betray their peers” and stand up for those who are doing their job with compassion and ethics.

Conversation about Dunn’s case ignited this week after security video played in court showed Dunn slamming a woman face first to the floor in 2017 while she was handcuffed. Charges weren’t laid against the officer until May last year — nearly 17 months after the incident.

Dunn was relieved from duty with pay “pending further review” and was reinstated to administration duties a year later.

Under Alberta’s Police Service Regulation, an officer can only be relieved without pay when “exceptional circumstances” exist, said police. “But the law does not define what counts as an ‘exceptional circumstance.’”

They also said any potential disciplinary action against Dunn has to wait until the court case ends, so his right to a fair trial isn’t jeopardized.

On Thursday, Calgary police released a statement titled “ Police accountability takes time” to respond to questions raised about accountability in Calgary. They said they are working closely with the provincial government to reform legislation so they can more easily discipline officers for misconduct.

Calgary police provided further details on Friday.

“We have believed for several years that the Police Act needs reform to bring it more in line with modern policing and to give police services better methods of addressing employee misconduct,” said the service in a statement.

The service recommends processes be streamlined to limit the amount of time needed for misconduct investigations. It also wants to see complainants participate in investigations, and workplace issues addressed through human resources rather than “lengthy Police Act investigations.”

Calgary police are also seeking clarity on what would warrant an officer, whose conduct is “egregious,” to be suspended without pay. Neufeld said the system to address police misconduct is “absolutely too slow.”

Justice Minister Kaycee Madu wrote on social media Thursday that he has instructed his department to speed up its review of the Police Act after being “deeply disturbed” by footage of the violent takedown.

“I am disappointed to see that our justice system works fast for some, and slow for others,” Madu wrote on Twitter. “Alberta’s minority communities, indeed all Albertans, must see immediate reform to the way policing is done in this province.”

He added that Alberta needs to address the lack of a standardized complaint system for citizens who are concerned about police conduct.

Doug King, a professor of justice studies at Mount Royal University, said police services in Alberta have been pushing for a rewrite of the provincial Police Act and Police Service Regulation for decades.

But there’s no saying whether a renewed focus by the province and Calgary police will lead to change.

“I’ve been around policing in Alberta for (over) 30 years,” said King. “I’ve heard this too often to be hopeful that it’s going to happen quickly … We’ve gone through too many governments that said, ‘Oh yeah, we’re going to do this.’

“I’ll congratulate people when they actually do something.”

He said police use of force and oversight are symptoms of how, in many ways, bureaucratized policing has become. Delays are naturally built into a system where the courts, police forces and government all play a role.

During the trial, Dunn maintained he was trying to remove the woman’s headscarf when she resisted. He said he felt her grab his wrist during the struggle.

Crown prosecutor Ryan Pollard said his version of events “doesn’t make sense.”

A date for the judge’s decision in the case will be set next week.

alsmith@postmedia.com

Twitter:  @alanna_smithh

Published at Fri, 30 Oct 2020 17:28:53 +0000

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