Edmonton Police chief, Rod Knecht, is being encouraged to look at Calgary’s police “Use-of-Force” Inquiry and to see if it and other recommendations can be applied to Edmonton Police Services (EPS).
After a string of officer-involved shootings, the Calgary Police force announced a full-range inquiry into the force that officers must use at their discretion. The inquiry is headed by former Queen’s Bench Chief Justice, Neil Wittmann.
Calgary, like Edmonton, has come under the microscope for such events while on duty. In Calgary, in 2016, officers were involved in 10 shootings; five of them fatal.
Calgary’s force was put under the microscope by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT). The ASIRT reviews police conduct and use of force. Misconduct incidents skyrocketed to 14 from the previous year.
While Edmonton had no officer-involved shootings last year, Chief Rod Knecht states that much can be learned from the inquiry. “We’ll be looking for what comes out of the Calgary inquiry. We’ll be interested to see any of those recommendations.” Knecht also states, “I don’t necessarily attribute it to being a cyclical thing…or that it is a trend”. He cites the fact that more criminals are using guns, “So there’s more aggression one way or the other. I think that’s going to transpose into more shootings, more use of force issues, but…it’s too early to make assumptions”.
In the meantime, public complaints with regard to police conduct in Edmonton are on the uprise. Edmonton’s own EPS Professional Standards Branch deals with public complaints as well as complaints internal to the EPS. In 2016, the Professional Standards Branch dealt with 1,247 files, but only 224 of those became formal complaints. This is an increase of 11 percent in formal complaints from 2015.
Complaints from the public in Edmonton ranged from an officer’s professionalism, to use of force, to customer service, and to driving. Many complaints were dismissed by the police chief because he states, “The alleged misconduct was not of a serious nature”.
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Members of the public have asserted the point repeatedly that the lack of serious attention and sometimes, as told to this writer, outright ridicule of the complaint, will lead people to choose to not launch complaints in the future. To make a complaint by the public, takes energy and effort and if they feel they will not be handled seriously, why bother.
One anonymous member of the public states, “This is a real shame and prevents plausible, credible complaints from ever being carried forward and dealt with the professional protocol that public complaints deserve. The Chief should be looking in his own backyard, too, and taking many more of the public’s complaints to the next level if he wants to retain the public trust. He must not deter people from launching complaints, if he wants public trust in the EPS to continue. To see their complaints not being handled with due process and in a serious manner, deters many from launching a complaint in the first place. Hopefully, that is not the intent of the Chief or the Professional Standards Branch…to deter credible complaints from reaching the Professional Standards Branch in the first place. The public needs to be heard and taken seriously. The lack of protocol is called into question and that is why the Chief and the Professional Standards Branch decisions might eventually be called into question”.
Therefore, it is with optimism, that a look at Calgary’s inquiry, may encourage both EPS entities to take more misconduct complaints as credible and encourage legitimate faith in the process. A process which, to the public, appears to be lacking, therefore, in the long run, losing the public’s trust.
This article was written by Donna Murchie.