Calgary police officer pleads guilty to firearms offence

A Calgary police officer who bought weapons intended for a provincial gun amnesty program has pleaded guilty to improperly storing firearms.

Officer remains suspended with pay until internal review by police chief

A Calgary police officer who bought weapons intended for a provincial gun amnesty program has pleaded guilty to improperly storing firearms.

Police veteran Const. Dean Pankewicz entered the plea in a Calgary courtroom Tuesday, the day his trial was set to begin.

Crown lawyers withdrew four more serious Criminal Code charges: breach of trust by a public officer, trafficking in firearms, unauthorized possession of a firearm, and possession of a firearm for the purpose of trafficking.

Pankewicz was given a conditional discharge and placed on probation for one year. The gun collector will be allowed keep his own personal gun collection, as well as continue to own and handle firearms.

"I feel that I was treated fairly in court. Everybody should be held accountable for their actions and with that I accept the court's decision on what had happened," Pankewicz said outside court, refusing any further questions from reporters.

Charges stemmed from gun amnesty 

The Calgary police constable worked on a month-long gun amnesty program in 2006. The amnesty program was meant to give Albertans the chance to hand over illegal and unwanted firearms without facing charges.

Pankewicz allegedly collected 51 weapons – 41 of which were found in the officer's home, and 10 were found in a gun shop in the village of Warburg.

Court heard that Pankewicz bought guns from people who had intended to turn in their weapons during the amnesty on behalf of a friend, a gun seller, who in turn sold them.

Defence lawyer Willie DeWitt said Pankewicz was just trying to be helpful and didn't benefit financially from his actions.

Derek Hodges, who dealt with Pankewicz, said outside court that he contacted the amnesty program in hopes of getting rid of an ornate vintage shotgun and a World War One German pistol he had inherited from his father.

"They're beautiful antique guns and when Dean came in to pick them up, he offered the opportunity to have these guns preserved … otherwise they would have been destroyed," Hodges said.

'Well regarded by the police service'

Staff Sgt. Harv Davies of the force's professional standards section said Pankewicz remains suspended with pay, as he has been since August 2007 when the charges were laid.

"Now it'll be up for the chief to decide whether or not he wants to revisit that and reassess, now that the criminal proceedings have been concluded — whether or not he wants to reassess that status and change it," he said on Tuesday.

The internal review may take several months before Pankewicz learns whether he can return to active duty.

"He's been very well regarded by the police service, as well as the public in the way he handles things," DeWitt said on Tuesday. "It's going to be up to the police service whether they want to keep him on as a police officer, but hopefully … it is going to work out for him."

During the amnesty, an estimated 1,000 weapons were turned in in Calgary. Edmonton police said they collected at least 550, including long guns, handguns and replica guns.

After the charges were laid, Insp. Ken Marchant said that in the future, officers would not be sent out to collect guns for amnesty programs — participants would have to bring them to police.