Edmonton

Edmonton city council told police should have zero tolerance for 'killer cops'

Edmonton city council has now held four days of public hearings into the future of policing in the city.

Diverse range of opinions on fourth day of public hearings on policing

A criminology professor told a public hearing on policing Monday that the Edmonton Police Service should not hire anyone without a university degree. (CBC)

An expert on policing and use of force thinks the best way to address current problems within the Edmonton Police Service is to be more careful when hiring, provide more training and get rid of bad cops.

Temitope Oriola, a criminology professor at the University of Alberta, spoke to Edmonton city council on Monday afternoon, day four of a public hearing on policing in the city.

Oriola suggested two major policies should be adopted to deal with the officers he calls "killer cops."

The first policy he described was "kill and go."

"Kill and go means any officer who kills an unarmed civilian or suspect who had a weapon but did not deploy it against the officer is dismissed from service and prosecuted," Oriola said. 

He named the second suggested policy "three strikes."

"Any officer involved in three successive use of force incidents in which a civilian is mistreated and/or sustains injuries is automatically dismissed from service and prosecuted," he said. 

Based on his research, the two-time Carnegie fellow suggested EPS should not hire anyone without a university degree. 

"Officers without university degrees populate the ranks of killer cops," Oriola said. 

University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola speaks to an Edmonton city council public hearing on policing. (City of Edmonton)

"Killer cops and human rights abusers suffer from major psychopathology," he continued. "They include mood swings, impulsivity, lack of empathy, narcissism and antisocial personality disorder."

Oriola said the best solution would be to stay away from hiring people like that in the first place. 

He also suggested EPS needs to hire more women, with a minimum threshold of 40 per cent female officers. 

"Female officers, research shows, are less likely to use force and excessive force," Oriola said. "They tend to employ de-escalation techniques and engage verbally."

Finally, Oriola said the current six-month training for recruits is not enough to meet the demands of modern-day policing. 

"I believe we are setting our police officers up for failure with the kind of training we're giving them now," he said. 

'I cannot take off my skin colour' 

Almost 200 people have signed up to address council during the public hearing. Most are encouraging the politicians to adopt a motion that would defund EPS and divert the money into mental health supports, community housing, free transit and other grassroots programs to assist Black and Indigenous people. 

"I am in favour of the motion today," Paige Gorsak told city council. "Please pass it. Because honestly, it barely begins to address the substantive pain and trauma that's been shared with you over the past week."

"Really, if you can't pass this motion, I and others will have a hard time believing that you will ever take action over the concerns raised in this process."

Amina Mohamed suggested council had scheduled a lengthy public hearing as a way to put off making real changes to the police service. She told them officers have a choice, but she does not. 

Amina Mohamed speaking to city council public hearing on policing. (City of Edmonton)

"Police officers sign up for their jobs," Mohamed said. "They can take their uniforms off at the end of the day and do not suffer violence because they're off duty. 

"I cannot take off my skin colour. As Black people, we are racialized 24/7 and cannot go off duty."

'We're experiencing a lot of hatred on the streets right now'

The wife of an Indigenous Edmonton police officer told the public hearing that her husband may take off his uniform at the end of the day, but he often has trouble erasing what he has seen on the job.

"He was almost run over and crushed between two vehicles and the only way he could survive and come home to us was to draw his gun and shoot," Colette Benoit said. " He almost got his finger bitten off by a guy so high on drugs it took five officers to arrest him. To this day, he still has no feeling in it."

Her husband said the current climate has made it hard to go to work. 

Sgt. Gary Benoit has been with the Edmonton Police Service for 22 years. (City of Edmonton)

"We're experiencing a lot of hatred on the streets right now," Sgt. Gary Benoit told the public hearing. "It's one of those things where you've painted the police and all the people who wear blue with the same brush."

Benoit said demands and expectations on police officers have increased over the past 13 years. He's been with EPS for 22 years.

"It's hard to be experts in all of these situations," Benoit said. "Especially in the areas of mental health and social work." 

The officer asked council to decide what expectations they have for Edmonton's police officers and how they do their jobs. 

Council will listen to a full day of speakers on Wednesday and is expected to begin deliberations next week on a motion that would direct administration to report on possible ways to defund the police. 

About the Author

Janice Johnston is an award-winning journalist in Edmonton who has covered the courts and crime for more than two decades. You can reach her at janice.johnston@cbc.ca or on Twitter at @cbcjanjohnston

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