Rayner wants full inquiry

Fred Rayner is calling for a full inquiry into the incident that led to his firing, and the decision to abruptly strip him of his job.

Fred Rayner is calling for a full inquiry into the incident that led to his firing, and the decision to abruptly strip him of his job.

"I'm deeply disappointed by the action taken by the Edmonton police commission," Rayner said Wednesday, standing in front of police headquarters with more than 100 officers behind him. "I hope for a full review of everyone involved, including myself and the police commission."

Rayner, an Edmonton police officer hired as chief last May, was fired by the commission Tuesday night, a day after he took a medical leave of absence.

Related story: Police chief fired; commission cites leadership

He said he was of the understanding that he and the commission were working co-operatively to deal with the fallout from the Nov. 18 drunk-driving sting.

There had been growing criticism from the public and Rayner's political bosses over his handling of the incident, which targeted a newspaper columnist.

Rayner cleared the seven officers on the stakeout of any wrongdoing – then days later transcripts of their radio conversations, published by the Edmonton Journal, showed the officers had been eager for an opportunity to arrest Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte.

Two senior officers will face disciplinary hearings over their conduct – one for how he handled the tip that Diotte was a risk to drink and drive and the other for issuing a news release days later that implied Diotte and police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak had been intoxicated.

Diotte and Ignasiak believe they were targets of the drinking and driving sting because of critical comments they'd made about the police service. They were attending a Canadian Association of Journalists event and said they weren't intoxicated and took cabs home.

Ignasiak said he neither debated nor voted on the motion to fire Rayner.

Some see plot behind Rayner firing

But some say the police commission is simply using the sting and its aftermath as an excuse to get rid of Rayner, who had been initially hired in a close 5-4 vote.

Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff, president of the Edmonton Police Association, says three of Rayner's supporters have since left the commission and the remaining members wanted him out.

"This was a preordained decision that was made by members of the commission right after Fred Rayner was selected," Ratcliff said.

Former police commissioner Dave Ruptash told the Canadian Press that Ignasiak had voted against Rayner when the new chief was hired 10 months ago. Ruptash voted for Rayner. His term and that of another Rayner supporter have expired, and Ruptash said Ignasiak requested that a third not be reappointed.

"There was a real split, no doubt about it," Ruptash told CP.

One of the officers charged by Rayner with discreditable conduct agrees that his former boss has gotten a rough ride.

"I firmly believe that there is a cabal that exists within the commission," Sgt. Bryan Boulanger, who sent the press release, told Canadian Press. "The actions of the members of this cabal were despicable in the whole manner in which they've treated Fred Rayner."

After firing Rayner Tuesday night, in a vote the commission said was unanimous, it then hired a replacement. It hasn't named that person, saying the decision has to be ratified by city council.

But sources indicate that the new chief is Dave Cassels – the man who lost the job to Rayner last spring.

Cassels was a deputy chief with the Edmonton Police Service and chief of the Winnipeg Police Service, before leaving half-way through his contract. He had clashed with officers over a controversial discipline procedure during his time there.

Former Edmonton chief Doug McNally, who was Cassels' boss, says he's a strict disciplinarian, but fair.

"My advice to the police association is get behind him, support him and they'll find he's very fair and honest," McNally said.

City council is holding a special meeting Thursday to decide whether to back the commission's decision or hold an open competition.

Related story: Council to meet about new police chief

with files from Canadian Press