The RCMP conducted a year-long criminal investigation into the illegal release of a young offender’s identity that involved Edmonton-Riverview Conservative MLA Steve Young, CBC News has learned.
Young did not publicly disclose the criminal investigation and he also refused to cooperate with the RCMP after he resigned from the Edmonton Police Service, even though he was directly responsible for the release of the young offender’s private information.
Mount Royal political scientist Duane Bratt said Young may not have had a legal obligation to disclose the police investigation to the electorate, but he did have an ethical one.
“Because these are important things to know; if you are being criminally investigated or not,” Bratt said. “I would think that (information) would sway voters.”
Young did not respond to an interview request made through his office last week.
A letter obtained exclusively by CBC News confirms that Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Chief Rod Knecht asked the RCMP to conduct a criminal investigation immediately after a serious breach of the Youth Criminal Justice Act involving Young and several other officers.
Under the act, it is illegal to publicly identify a young offender without court permission. But on April 2, 2012, the EPS published and broadcast the name, photograph and age of a 16-year-old girl. The girl recently launched a lawsuit against Knecht, Young and other officers for $40,000.
Edmonton Police released the girl’s information as part of a high-profile publicity campaign to encourage people with outstanding warrants to turn themselves in.
Young responsible for releasing information
The Nov. 8, 2013 letter, written by Knecht to the girl, details how her personal information came to be released, as determined by the RCMP investigation.
The letter says Young, then an acting staff-sergeant, was directly responsible for the girl’s private information being released. He oversaw the assembly of the information, including the photos, and vetted the information before it was released.
The letter also shows that no one involved in several subsequent steps, including Young’s superior officers, appeared to notice the private information of a young offender was slated to be illegally released.
Within hours of the information’s release on April 2, 2012, the EPS knew it had made a serious mistake.
“(Edmonton Police) made a (Police Act) notification to the Minister of Justice and Solicitor General at that time based on the information received,” Knecht states. “Based on that notification, the matter was forwarded to the RCMP to conduct a criminal investigation and a (Police Services Regulation) investigation into the matter.”
The RCMP identified three officers as subjects of the investigation: Staff Sgt. Regan James, Det. Kelly Krewenchuk and Young, who was one of EPS spokesmen during the publicity campaign, appearing in the media holding copies of the wanted posters.
By law, police officers in Alberta are required to provide statements in an investigation. James and Krewenchuk provided “involuntary statements,” but Young refused.
“It should be noted that Steve Young, who was the acting staff sergeant in charge of the project was approached (by RCMP investigators) however he declined to provide a statement as he was no longer employed by the EPS,” the letter states.
It is not known either exactly when Young resigned or when the RCMP began its investigation. But it is known that Knecht publicly called for the criminal investigation on April 3, with 20 days remaining in the provincial election.
Young would have known he was one of the subjects of the investigation as he campaigned in Edmonton-Riverview, a swing riding previously held by Liberal Kevin Taft. Young handily won the riding, capturing 40 per cent of the vote.
Young dropped from cabinet
Neala Barton, a spokeswoman for Premier Alison Redford, declined to say whether this matter played any role in Redford’s abrupt decision in December to drop Young from the newly-created position of associate minister of Public Safety.
At the time, Young linked the decision to another incident from his police career. As first reported by CBC News, an internal disciplinary report from 2007 found insufficient evidence to prove Young had lied when he told internal police investigators he had not used a Taser on a drunken young man during a 2004 arrest, when in fact he had.
The report details how Young repeatedly denied using his Taser and instead blamed another officer. Confronted with irrefutable evidence that he had deployed his Taser, Young blamed a faulty memory. He was cleared of the charge but the presiding officer said he had doubts about Young’s story.
Political scientist Duane Bratt said this latest revelation about Young’s questionable behaviour and judgment as a police officer justifies Redford’s decision to drop him from cabinet. As associate minister of Public Safety, Young likely would have likely often dealt with intersecting police and enforcement issues.
“It sounds like this is a pattern of behaviour for Steve Young while he was an officer with the Edmonton Police Service,” Bratt said, adding that, “in the end, I think the right decision was made (by Redford). We don’t know why that decision was made though.”
Alberta Justice transparency questioned
But Bratt also said this case raises serious question about how Alberta Justice dealt with this case, an opinion echoed by Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel, whose firm is representing the girl in the civil lawsuit against the EPS.
In his letter, EPS Chief Rod Knecht said the RCMP provided its completed investigation to the EPS on April 29, 2013 and the EPS referred it to the Crown to determine if any police officers should face charges.
“The resulting opinion and recommendation was that charges were not warranted,” Knecht states in the letter.
CBC News asked the Solicitor General’s office how it was determined that no charges were warranted and whether a special prosecutor had been assigned to the case since it involved a sitting MLA.
In an emailed response, spokesman Dan Laville refused to provide any information, saying the ministry’s practice was to neither confirm nor deny a police investigation. The ministry has also recently declined to explain why another Tory MLA, Peter Sandhu, had not been charged for swearing a false affidavit in a civil court case.
Engel said he couldn’t understand why no charges were laid in this case because there is no doubt the law was broken since an individual’s privacy was breached.
“The investigation proved that Steve Young was responsible, ultimately,” Engel said. “(He) reviewed all the material, the name of our client was on the poster, her age was on the poster.
“I don’t know how you could say that there was no reasonable likelihood of conviction,” Engel said. “And I don’t know how you could say it would not be in the public interest to prosecute. This was treated by the Edmonton Police Service as a very serious matter, and a very sensitive matter.”
Both Bratt and Engel said Alberta Justice should explain how it handled the case involving a sitting MLA and explain how it determined a charge wasn’t warranted.
“I think there ought to be some transparency,” Engel said, adding, “it seems like a kind of double standard to me.”