Contentious arrest of Hells Angel leads to call for new police oversight body
Inquiry was struck after arrest of a Hells Angel in Calgary in 2008 that led to charges against police
The police complaints process in the province is in need of an overhaul, according to an inquiry by the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board.
The report was prepared in response to the handling of a complaint involving the arrest of Hells Angel Jason Arkinstall in Calgary in 2008.
In the subsequent trial, the presiding judge dismissed the credibility of the arresting officers for issues with their testimony and video that contradicted some aspects of their account.
Almost eight years later, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigated the arrest and the behaviour of the officers at trial.
That led to charges against two city officers: Const. Brant Derrick and Sgt. Les Kaminski.
Derrick was found not guilty of assault and Kaminski's perjury charge was dropped.
Arkinstall was acquitted of uttering threats, and charges of obstruction and assault were dropped prior to his trial.
Justice Minister Kathleen Ganley directed the law enforcement review board to investigate why the process took so long and why the Calgary police did not properly investigate the claims.
Lack of investigation a 'mistake'
The Calgary Police Service conducted a review after Arkinstall's trial but determined an investigation was not required, which they've since called a "mistake."
"The fact is that until ASIRT, an independent oversight agency, investigated the matter, obvious investigative steps were not taken," reads the review board report.
"CPS's internal review and handling of the matter highlights problems that can occur when 'the police investigate their own,' both in the public's perception and in practice."
The board found that the investigation by ASIRT (Alberta Serious Incident Response Team) highlighted the benefits of an independent investigative system that examines police conduct. It recommends considering a provincewide "centralized disciplinary system, independent of police service and commissions."
According to the law enforcement review board, Alberta's system is in need of a thorough review and suggests a retired judge conduct a formal process.
Recommendations for Calgary police
There are 19 other recommendations contained in the report, including proper training of Calgary police officers examining internal conduct; documenting the reasons for whether to investigate a complaint or not and documenting the process of an investigation; and speaking to a complainant early in the process so their complaint is understood.
The board also recommends Calgary police end the practice of administrative reviews of complaints and ensure that those who examine concerns "conduct efficient and effective investigations of each complaint."
It recommends Calgary police should remove gang membership "as a ground for deciding that alleged misconduct is or is not of a serious nature."
Calgary police apologize
Calgary Deputy Chief Ray Robitaille said the report, while not finding any intentional interference, points to shortcomings.
"This is a failure of the service as a whole and for this we apologize," he said Monday.
Robitaille said some policies and procedures are already under review or have been changed and that the service accepts the recommendations contained in the report.
"In this case here, there were a lot of questions that would cause the public to have some questions, rightfully so, and we should be above that," he said.
Provincially, the board calls for:
- Providing clear and easily accessible information to the public on making complaints.
- Establishing a policy for when Crown prosecutors should bring concerns about police testimony to the attention of a police service.
- And enshrining the ability of police commissions' public complaints directors to open complaint files and recommend specific investigative steps.
The board also wants to change the Police Act so that chiefs can no longer unilaterally decide an investigation is not warranted.
It says "a meaningful, effective and efficient [alternative] dispute resolution system should form part of any new model for police oversight in Alberta."
Criminal Trial Lawyer's Association
The Criminal Trial Lawyer's Association says the report is a clear indication that police can not be trusted to investigate themselves.
It said in a news release that Calgary police were willfully blind to the allegations in this case and says without the association's persistence, the matter would never have come to light.
"Initially, we were accused of misconduct and of being 'conspiratorial' rather than having our concerns taken seriously by the CPS," it said.
The organization is backing the call for an independent body to handle police complaints.
"The public cannot be expected to respect and support a police oversight regime that allows tunnel vision to result in serious alleged officer misconduct being inadequately investigated," it said.
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- An earlier version of this story suggested Const. Brant Derrick had been charged with perjury. In fact, he was charged with assault and found not guilty.Oct 01, 2018 5:20 PM MT