Edmonton police slammed over racist email
The Edmonton Police Service was more concerned about its reputation than with getting to the bottom of a controversial email written by one of its constables, the Law Enforcement Review Board ruled Thursday.
The 2002 email — titled Mr. Socko's Ten Principals of Downtown Policing — was written by Const. Scott Carter and distributed among officers at the downtown police station over a period of several years.
In the ruling, board chairman John E. Phillips wrote that the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB) is concerned that police were "inappropriately preoccupied with 'keeping a lid on' the public knowledge of the email and its contents."
The existence of the email became public in 2005. The acting police chief at the time, Daryl da Costa, described it as "racist, discriminatory and disgusting" but refused to release its contents.
The public didn't get to read the text of the email until September 2009 when it was released during a LERB hearing.
The 10 points listed in the email include a suggestion that the police van used to transport suspects "should always be referred to as the Mobile Native Friendship Centre." It also stated, "An 'Aboriginal' is actually just an Indian."
Overall, the board found the matter was "poorly handled" by Edmonton police.
"Indeed, given the facts and the context of the email, a transparent approach would likely have demonstrated that the email was not as serious as the speculation, conjecture and rumour would inevitably build it up to be," the ruling says, adding police should have organized a meeting with aboriginal groups sooner for Carter to give them an explanation and apology.
"The board expresses the hope that the EPS has learned from this incident and if there are any future such occurrences that it will handle the matter in a more open and transparent fashion."
Concern about 'media circus'
During the hearing last fall, the board reviewed emails exchanged between the investigator, Det. Terry Briscoe, and a manager in the Edmonton Police Service's professional standards branch.
In one email, Briscoe expressed concerns that there would be a "media circus" if the contents of the email were ever made public.
Statements like that were of particular concern to the LERB.
"The board is concerned that it could appear that the sole concern of the EPS was to try to hide the fact that the email had ever existed or been sent," Phillips writes.
"Comments were made in various emails about trying to keep the lid on things and what the potential fallout would be if the email was ever released to the public."
Phillips also expressed the board's concern that the investigation was incomplete and that the police service doesn't appear to have considered the impact of one of its own constables sending that kind of email using the force's computer system.
Carter was given an official warning by police in 2005 for insubordination and discreditable conduct. The board did not recommend any additional discipline for Carter
Carter told the hearing the email was meant to be satirical not hurtful, and that he wrote it in response to public criticism directed towards officers who worked in the downtown division.
Email an attempt at 'humour gone wrong'
Carter apologized to aboriginal leaders at a closed-door meeting in 2007.
In its ruling, the board found the email's contents to be offensive "beyond question" but found that it was an attempt at "humour gone wrong."
The board determined the constable was not motivated by racism, but by a desire to vent frustration at a "system he felt had gone wrong and to try to spark some discussion as to how to fix that system." The board believes Carter now understands the error of his ways.