No charges in Colton Crowshoe investigation, but 'mistakes were made'

Calgary police officers won't face charges after allegations of racism and profiling were made by the family of a slain teen, but investigators say there were big mistakes in the case.

Teen last seen 3 weeks before police launched a missing person investigation

Colton James Crowshoe's body was found in a retention pond on July 24, 2014. (Calgary Police Service)

After a 32-month investigation, Calgary police officers won't face any charges after allegations of racism and profiling were made by the family of a slain teen.

But the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), who investigated the allegations against police, says there were several problems with the investigation and many mistakes were made.

In the three weeks after he was last seen, Colton Crowshoe's family begged police to treat his disappearance as a missing persons case, but that didn't happen until two days before his body was discovered in a retention pond and his death deemed a homicide.

Crowshoe, 18, was arrested on July 2, 2014, for trespassing and breaking and entering. Two days later, he was last seen with friends in the early morning hours at a party in Abbeydale. His body was found on July 24.

The family of Colton Crowshoe have been critical of police since he went missing in the summer of 2014. (Meghan Grant/CBC)

"ASIRT's investigation was comprehensive and complex and presented unique challenges," said ASIRT executive director Susan Hughson during a news conference on Thursday afternoon.

"Whether race was a factor was addressed and recordings of interactions didn't display content or tone that was disrespectful," said Hughson. "The investigation was not done properly but it wasn't down to racism."

ASIRT says it reviewed 28 missing person files on people with a similar age range as part of the investigation. 

​Family critical of police

From the beginning of the investigation, the family criticized the Calgary police for their handling of the case, saying officers had been dismissive of the family because of Crowshoe's First Nations heritage and his recent interaction with officers.

Crowshoe's family say police officers didn't take their initial reports of his disappearance seriously.

"Calgary police officers who responded to our call for help dismissed our pleas and downplayed our version of events and at their discretion, ruled out any foul play," said Danielle Crowshoe, Colton's aunt, days after her nephew's body was discovered. 

ASIRT admits mistakes were made and calls the delay by Calgary police "unacceptable."

"A series of misjudgments and errors by Calgary police were made," said Susan Hughson.

Hughson says changes have been made in how missing persons investigations are handled within the force, but Alberta law enforcement agencies could learn from this case.

Night of arrest

The night he was arrested, the family says Crowshoe came home with bruises and scrapes on his face. He told them he'd been roughed up by the arresting officer who refused to give the teen his badge number.

According to ASIRT, police records show that Crowshoe didn't co-operate when being put into a police van and officers had to "physically place him in the van." 

Hughson — who said a rough flooring surface in the van could have been the cause of an injury on his face — says minimal force was used to place him in the van and officers acted reasonably.

In August 2014, CPS requested ASIRT conduct an independent review into previous interactions between officers and Crowshoe, as well as the missing person investigation.

In a statement issued Thursday, the Calgary Police Service said prior to Crowshoe's death they were already in the processes of reviewing practices around how it manages missing person files. 

"As a result of that review, a number of changes have since been made to improve the process," the statement read.

"We have made several changes including clearer guidelines for frontline officers and investigators as well as a more thorough accountability framework. This framework has resulted in additional checks and balances to ensure missing person files are managed to the highest standard possible.

"Policy around communicating with family members of missing persons has also been strengthened."

Police have not made any arrests in connection with Crowshoe's death.

"Someone out there knows what happened to Colton Crowshoe," said Hughson, adding she hopes information will be brought forward to help bring closure for his loving family.