LGBTQ2 advocate urges Edmonton police commission to investigate chief's conduct

LGBTQ2 advocate Kristopher Wells is backing up a high-ranking Edmonton Police Service officer’s accusation that Chief Rod Knecht made “false or misleading” statements about the cancellation of a pride reception.

‘The chief needs to step aside until that investigation is complete,’ says Kristopher Wells

LGBTQ2 advocate Kristopher Wells is calling on Edmonton's police commission to launch a full investigation into Chief Rod Knecht's statements concerning the cancellation of a pride reception. (Zoe Todd/CBC)

LGBTQ2 advocate Kristopher Wells is backing up a high-ranking Edmonton Police Service officer's accusation that Chief Rod Knecht made "false or misleading" statements about the cancellation of a pride reception.

Supt. Brad Doucette filed a complaint with the police commission last month, questioning comments Knecht made at an August meeting saying he never cancelled the chief's pride reception — an annual community event held from 2010 to 2012.

In his letter to the police commission, Doucette said he had spoken with two EPS members who were present during a 2013 meeting where the event was discussed. The superintendent said he was told the discussion and decision to cancel the event "was introduced and led by chief Knecht."  

The chief has denied the allegation, called it "vexatious" and questioned its timing. Knecht is set to retire at the end of the month.

The police commission would have to decide whether Doucette's complaint leads to an investigation.

Advocate calls for investigation

Kristopher Wells, an associate professor in the department of child and youth care in MacEwan University and former chair of EPS's sexual minorities committee, called on the police commission to launch an immediate investigation. The police chief should step aside until an investigation is finished, he told CBC News.

"If there are questions of integrity and honesty from a leader, particularly the leader of the police service, I think they need to be immediately and fully investigated," he said.

In an email to the police commission, Wells explained he was the chair of EPS's sexual minorities committee in 2013 and also served as co-chair of the chief's community and advisory council — under both Knecht and previous chief Mike Boyd.

Wells said Doucette was correct to say cost drove the decision to cancel the pride reception. He recalled telling Knecht that committee members were concerned about the future of the event, and that if cost was a problem they could find other ways to pay for it.

In his email to the commission, he said relationships between members of the police and the LGBTQ community "have gone backwards" under Knecht's leadership.

'A punch in the gut'

Glynnis Lieb, executive director for the Institute for Minority Studies and Services at the University of Alberta, said reading about the accusation Friday morning was like "a punch in the gut."

"It's creating a deep divide within the LGBTQ2 community, and the divide is adding hurt to the fact that so many people have been hurt by interactions with law enforcement," Lieb said.

She praised Doucette for complaining to the police commission.

"I think that it takes great courage to make these complaints and to bring something to the light, especially if you know it might not be popular," she said.

Both advocates expressed hope for improved relationships between police members and LGBTQ2 citizens once a new chief is in place.

With files from Janice Johnston