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The most egregious examples of police misconduct in Alberta
A new database compiles hundreds of cases from 1993-2022. I looked at some of the worst
On Tuesday, an Edmonton-based group of researchers released a searchable database of nearly 400 cases of police misconduct over a 30-year span, the first of its kind in Canada.
The bulk of the cases documented involve Edmonton Police Service (EPS) officers, but there are incidents involving Calgary, Medicine Hat, Camrose and Lethbridge cops, as well as sheriffs and correctional officers.
The Globe and Mail’s Alanna Smith reports:
Hundreds of officers are named in the database, some with multiple incidents noted under their names and badge numbers. The project took nearly two years to complete with data compiled through publicly available information, such as newspaper articles, CanLII (Canadian Legal Information Institute) decisions, disciplinary hearings, in addition to documents obtained through Freedom of Information legislation. All entries are vetted by a six-person board with expertise in law, social justice and police reform.
“We’re just scratching the surface of misconduct in this province,” paralegal Devyn Ens, who spearheaded the project, told the Globe, adding that the database will include RCMP officers in the near future.
After spending the better part of a day poring through the database, I’ve selected some of the more egregious cases that popped out to me.
For the purposes of this piece, I’ve only included complaints resulting in convictions, whether criminal or disciplinary. I excluded Calgary city councillor and former Calgary cop Sean Chu’s sexual misconduct with a minor, as I’ve already covered it here.
The notorious “sweat box” incident
Two Edmonton cops were found guilty in November 2010 of insubordination and discreditable conduct for rounding up unhoused people and dumping them on the other side of the city.
Constables Patrick Hannas and Lael Sauter were convicted of these Police Act charges at a disciplinary hearing for the incident that occurred in 2005. Another officer who had been charged, Const. Graham Blackburn, was found to have just been in the vehicle at the same time, and was acquitted. None faced criminal charges.
Hannas and Sauter picked up nine unhoused Indigenous people on Whyte Avenue and locked them together in a crowded, sweaty van for 90 minutes before leaving them at a parking lot in the city’s north end.
Calgary police Insp. Paul Manuel, who presided over the disciplinary hearing, rejected the view that the incident was racially-motivated, arguing the officers were concerned for the well-being of the people they rounded up at random. But he did agree it brought the EPS into disrepute.
Alex Dunn’s history of misconduct
Calgary Police Service (CPS) Const. Dunn made international news in December 2020 when he was convicted of assault for slamming a Black woman, Dalia Kafi, to the floor face-first at a police station in a 2017 incident, which provincial court Judge Michelle Christopher called an “egregious mistake” before handing him a 30-day conditional sentence.
Since his conviction, Dunn has been suspended without pay, but racial justice activists are calling for him to simply be fired.
CBC News unearthed a photo of Dunn in blackface from a 2012 party, where he dressed as rapper Lil John, for which Dunn remains under investigation by the CPS.
In the same November 2020 story, the CBC reported Dunn pled guilty to two Police Act charges of insubordination in 2016 — one for accessing a civilian's information for personal reasons and another for storing his service firearm at home. He was docked four days’ pay for the incidents.
Stalking a woman in distress
It turns out police officers can get fired.
Const. Dave Pizzolato was fired from the CPS in 2019 after sending nearly 100 text messages to a woman who was hospitalized after a suicide attempt. “Pizzolato is only the third officer in more than two decades to be terminated from CPS,” the CBC’s Megan Grant noted.
The victim showed Pizzolato’s obsessive messages to hospital staff, who then reported the officer’s conduct to the CPS.
The day she was released from the hospital, Pizzolato, who had been on the force for 22 years, showed up at her home to take her out for ice cream, which she accepted out of fear.
According to Grant’s reporting, the officer had been warned by his staff sergeant after engaging in similar behaviour with a woman he met on duty just weeks earlier.
Uploading child porn to Tumblr
Thomas Buttle, who had been a CPS member for four years, was caught in 2018 with more than 4,000 child sexual exploitation images on two cell phones, a computer tower and a laptop. He resigned from the CPS when he was charged and was sentenced to eight months in jail the following year.
The investigation occurred after Buttle uploaded images to Tumblr, which informed the U.S. National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children that the user who did it was located in southern Alberta.
Suspended a day for destroying evidence
EPS Const. Shane Faulkner was suspended without pay for 25 hours after admitting to destroying video evidence of him allegedly assaulting a prisoner in December 2004.
Faulkner was accused of kicking Archie Waskahat in the ribs while he was in handcuffs on the floor. He confiscated a disposable camera from a woman who had taken photos of the incident from a balcony and destroyed it by stepping on it.
Faulkner pled guilty to discreditable conduct for destroying the camera and insubordination for not documenting his altercation with Waskahat, but didn’t admit to assaulting him, which would have been an unlawful exercise of authority.
Criminal charges of assault and obstruction of justice against Faulkner were later dropped.
Access the full database here.
In others news …
United Steelworkers (USW) is aiming to represent 115 workers at five locations across the southwestern Alberta city of about 100,000.
A news release from the union suggests the company’s failure to keep workers safe during the pandemic was a motivating factor for unionizing.
“Throughout the pandemic, Starbucks workers have faced unrealistic expectations from the coffee giant. Workers are burning out and are struggling mentally and physically,” USW organizer Pablo Guerra wrote. “From challenges of PPE, employee shortages, being forced to come into work sick, and added pressures from mobile ordering and complex drink orders, workers have had enough and are demanding better from Starbucks.”
USW represents baristas at the Victoria’s Douglas Street drive-thru location — the only unionized Starbucks in Canada.
A USW-led drive to organize workers at the Chinook Centre food court Starbucks in Calgary failed to win a certification vote earlier this year.
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