Edmonton transit officer resigns after allegations of excessive force, racial profiling by black teen

One of two Edmonton transit officers has resigned after complaints of excessive force and racial profiling made by a 15-year-old African-Canadian boy, CBC News has learned. Alberta's solicitor general has assigned an investigator to monitor city probe of complaint.

Alberta solicitor general assigns investigator to monitor city probe of complaint by 15-year-old

The City of Edmonton says a transit officer accused of racial profiling and excessive force has resigned to accept 'a long-planned employment opportunity.'

An Edmonton transit officer has resigned after complaints of excessive force and racial profiling made by a 15-year-old African-Canadian boy, CBC News has learned.

He's one of two officers involved in an incident on Jan. 19 at the Belvedere LRT station, now being investigated by both the city's professional standards unit and police.

"The officer accepted a long-planned employment opportunity and is no longer with the city," spokesperson Tarra Kongsrude said Tuesday, though she didn't elaborate.

There is no indication that his departure is related to the January incident. 

Last month, CBC first reported the story of the youth, who is not being identified for safety reasons.

The teen said he was accused by a peace officer of loitering while waiting to take Bus No. 154 on his way home from school.

He said when he tried to leave he was slammed into the rail, then pushed to the ground by two officers.
Dramatic video shows an Edmonton teen arrested by peace officers after being accused of loitering at a transit station. He says he only was waiting for the bus. 1:43

In short videos recorded by bystanders, the sound of what seems to be the boy's head hitting the wall can be heard as he struggles with the officers.

Handcuffed and bruised, the teen said officers held him down while he tried not to cry. He was issued a $250 loitering ticket.

The city has declined a request by CBC to see any relevant video footage captured by security cameras.

Province monitoring city investigation

CBC has also learned that the city's investigation will be monitored by an investigator with Alberta Justice and Solicitor General.

The teen's lawyer, Tom Engel, wrote on Sunday to Bill Sweeney, Alberta's director of law enforcement and assistant deputy minister of the public security division.

Engel suggested the city investigation should be turned over to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which investigates deaths and injuries of civilians involving police officers.
Lawyer Tom Engel says he's pleased to hear the province has assigned an investigator to monitor the city's investigation. (CBC)

In his response on Feb 26, Sweeney said the Police Act prevented him from directing an investigation to ASIRT because peace officers are governed by the Peace Officer Act.

But Sweeny said his department, which is the administrator of the province's peace officer program, has assigned an investigator "to closely monitor" Edmonton transit as their investigation unfolds.

"If our investigator has concerns with respect to the quality, thoroughness or fairness of the investigation, I will be informed," Sweeney wrote. "The program area is watching this one quite closely because it is a serious allegation."

Sweeney acknowledged that the officer who resigned is no longer under investigation by the city. The second officer still is, and both are still under criminal investigation by police.

Objectivity concerns

In an interview Tuesday, Engel said he asked ASIRT to investigate because peace officers have "no comparable body."

"The integrity of those investigations is lacking, in that the investigations are not done properly and they may not be objective," he said.

But Engel said he has much more confidence in the integrity of the city investigation because Sweeney "is taking this very seriously."

Regarding the criminal investigation, he expressed concern about the objectivity of police investigating peace officers "because they work too closely together."

Stops by law enforcement have come under increased scrutiny in Alberta with reviews currently being conducted by both city police and the police commission in Edmonton, as well as the province.

Last June, a CBC News investigation confirmed Indigenous and black people in Edmonton were more likely to be randomly stopped and documented by police in non-criminal street checks, also known as carding.

Calls for review of peace officer program

On Tuesday, the advocacy group Black Lives Matter Edmonton called for the suspension of the transit officers during the investigation and a review of the program.

Peace officers "are not trained nor should be responsible for arresting and using force on people they suspect of loitering," wrote the group, which is holding a rally on Friday in Churchill Square.

The officers receive far less training than Edmonton police and are not subject to transparent and independent oversight, the group said.

The group called on the mayor "to take responsibility and ownership for this breach of trust" but Don Iveson declined comment while the matter is under investigation.

Despite requests, city and provincial officials have not revealed how much training a peace officer receives.

"They all participate in ongoing training to ensure they are meeting the highest standards," Kongsrude wrote.

The city's findings will only be shared with the complainants, she said.

Engel said the province needs to address the "severely lacking" level of oversight of peace officers.

He said a review of training of peace officers should include racial profiling, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, questioning, detention and what evidence is needed to lay a loitering ticket.

"If this is typical of the way they operate, then there's a very serious systemic problem," said Engel.

andrea.huncar@cbc.ca

@andreahuncar

About the Author

Andrea Huncar

Reporter

Andrea Huncar is based in Edmonton. She reports on human rights, immigrant and Indigenous communities, policing and radicalization. Contact her in confidence at andrea.huncar@cbc.ca