Edmonton

Mike Wasylyshen promotion sparks protest at EPS headquarters

A small but angry group of protesters gathered downtown Monday to challenge the promotion of an Edmonton police officer with a criminal record.

'We’re trying to make a principled decision and do what's right,' says EPS chief

Taz Bouchier was among the group of nearly 20 Edmontonians who gathered to protest the promotion of Sgt. Mike Wasylyshen. (CBC)

A small but angry group of protesters gathered downtown Monday to challenge the promotion of an Edmonton police officer with a criminal record.

Last week, CBC News reported that Mike Wasylyshen had been promoted to sergeant despite his criminal record for the drunken, off-duty assault of a man on crutches, and a disciplinary suspension for Tasering a passed-out aboriginal teen.

A decade after he Tasered the youth eight times in 68 seconds, Wasylyshen was put through a disciplinary hearing, where he was handed a 120-hour suspension for insubordination and using excessive force.

The presiding officer in that hearing said he wasn’t convinced Wasylyshen was remorseful, and called the use of excessive force “offensive” and an “embarrassment to policing.”

Wasylyshen is the son of former Edmonton police chief Bob Wasylyshen.

In an emailed statement last week, the police department said it had considered Wasylyshen’s background and record “as part of the promotion process,” and found that he had proved himself “ready for promotion.”

But Taz Bouchier, an aboriginal elder and advocate, disagrees with that.

“To promote this man who Tasered one of our youth, who was 17 years old, eight times within 68 seconds no matter how long ago that was demonstrates a man who has no integrity, who has violent behaviour, and no remorse was demonstrated in court.

“It bothers us as a community that he’s been promoted. It bothers not only us as aboriginal people, but you’ll see there’s non-aboriginal people here who are bothered by it as well.”

Edmonton police chief Rod Knecht, however, continues to defend the decision to promote Wasylyshen, despite the angry reaction from some in the community.

“We’re trying to make a principled decision and do what's right,” he said. “It’s the road less travelled. I understand it’s controversial and I understand not everyone is going to support that. It’s a very difficult position.”

Knecht pointed out Wasylyshen’s record of service has been unblemished for the past decade.

“For some folks, that won’t make any difference, but ... when is there a time to forgive? Is it three years later, five years later, 10 years later? I don’t know. I don’t have the answer to that, but I can tell you that we had considerable debate around this issues.”

The police chief said EPS plans to meet with aboriginal leaders on Friday to further discuss the matter.

“We hope to have something along the lines of a healing circle and have a discussion with those people.”

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