Police chief orders investigation after blackface photo surfaces of Calgary officer on trial for assault

The Calgary police officer who made international headlines after video from his assault trial was published last week is being investigated again after CBC News received a photo of the constable in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party.

WARNING: This story contains disturbing video

Const. Alex Dunn, left, who was on trial last week for assault stemming from a violent arrest, is being investigated after a photo surfaced of the officer in blackface around 2012. (Colin Hall/Supplied)

The Calgary police officer who made international headlines after video from his assault trial was published last week is being investigated again after CBC News received a photo of the constable in blackface at a 2012 Halloween party.

Const. Alex Dunn was caught on video throwing a handcuffed young woman, Dalia Kafi, who is Black, on the ground face-first during a 2017 arrest.

Dunn, 34, was subsequently charged with assault causing bodily harm and his trial took place last week. A date for the judge to issue her decision has not yet been set.

On Friday, CBC News was provided a copy of a photo showing Dunn at a party dressed as Lil Jon, an American rapper. At the time the photo was taken, Dunn was employed by the Calgary Police Service.

After the Calgary Police Service was asked for comment on the image, Chief Mark Neufeld issued a written statement, calling the image "extremely offensive" and saying he had ordered an internal investigation into the photograph.

"The service considers that the practice of wearing blackface is deplorable and has no place in our city," said Neufeld. 

"Incidents like this erode our relationship with the diverse communities we serve, and undermine the good work that the vast majority of our officers do every single day."

Dunn previously disciplined

Around the time of the blackface photo, Dunn was also in trouble with CPS and was charged with three Police Act offences.

Ultimately, he pleaded guilty in 2016 to two charges of insubordination for breaching CPS policies related to accessing a civilian's information for personal reasons and the home storage of his service firearm.

For the two incidents, Dunn was docked four days' pay.

According to a 2016 Law Enforcement Review Board decision, Dunn was originally charged with one count each of discreditable conduct, improper use of a firearm and insubordination.

Dunn declined to comment on the blackface photo and his previous Police Act offences. 

WATCH: See Const. Dunn throw the handcuffed woman to the ground in the video below, which was released during his assault trial

Calgary police officer on trial for assaulting handcuffed woman he threw to the ground

CBC News Calgary

4 months ago
In this court evidence from Dec.13, 2017, Dalia Kafi was arrested by Const. Dunn for breaching her curfew. At the arrest processing unit, Kafi says she backed away from Dunn when he attempted to remove her headscarf. Dunn can then be seen throwing the handcuffed woman to the ground face first. 1:03

What happened in his assault trial

Dunn's three-day assault trial took place last week with the complainant, two police officers and Dunn testifying. 

In December 2017, Kafi, who was 26 years old at the time, had been arrested on the accusation she breached a court-ordered curfew. 

She was taken to CPS arrest processing unit by Dunn, who then threw her to the ground in what one 30-year officer testified was the "worst use of force" he'd ever seen. 

Kafi, whose head can be seen bouncing off the concrete floor in video released in the trial, needed surgery for a broken nose and stitches in her lip, according to prosecutor Ryan Pollard.

Dunn testified that he'd attempted a "dynamic takedown" on his arrestee after one of Kafi's handcuffs slid up her arm toward her elbow and she was able to grab his hand as he tried to remove a scarf from her head.

Dunn testified that he didn't mean to throw the woman on the floor face-first. 

Dunn brought back on active duty

There was no evidence introduced in the trial that the use of force on Kafi was racially motivated.

After the video exhibit was released by the judge, it went viral, with one video posted being viewed more than 12 million times. 

According to CPS, Dunn was suspended with pay for a year after he was charged but has been brought back in an administrative role with the service. 

CPS said its internal disciplinary process regarding the Kafi incident will be completed after the trial and will determine whether Dunn's use of force was considered reasonable. 

Under the Police Act, depending on the outcome, discipline could include dismissal.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

About the Author

Meghan Grant

CBC Calgary reporter

Meghan Grant is the courts and crime reporter for CBC Calgary.


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