Suspend transit officers involved in altercation during investigation, group urges

An activist group wants two transit officers involved in a physical altercation with a teenager over a loitering complaint suspended while city officials continue their investigation.

'They should not be interacting with citizens ... until they're either cleared or sanctioned'

An image captured of the incident involving a teenager and two transit peace officers at the Belvedere LRT station on Jan. 19.

An activist group wants two transit officers involved in a physical altercation with a teenager over a loitering complaint suspended as city officials continue investigating the incident.

"I don't think it makes people feel safe or comfortable if those officers are still patrolling the LRT after that," said Bashir Mohamed of Black Lives Matter Edmonton, on Tuesday.

"They should not be interacting with citizens or put in that position, until they're either cleared or sanctioned based on the investigation."

Edmonton Police Service and city officials are both looking into the Jan. 19 incident.

That's when a 15-year-old boy was waiting with friends at the Belvedere LRT Station, when he ran into three of his relatives.

'I think he’s approaching us just because of our skin colour and the way we look'

4 years ago
Dramatic video shows an Edmonton teen arrested by peace officers after being accused of loitering at a transit station. He says he only was waiting for the bus. 1:43

The teenager, who is black, told CBC that when he tried to leave, a peace officer told him he was being detained for loitering. The teen said the officer then grabbed and handcuffed him, and pushed him against a railing.

The teenager said he was thrown to the concrete floor. Cell phone videos of the incident show two peace officers holding him down.

CBC has asked to view any relevant video footage captured by security cameras at the LRT station, but city officials declined the request.

Mayor Don Iveson said he will not comment until the investigations are complete.

"The allegations are being investigated by the mechanisms that are there to hold peace officers responsible," he said.

"I'd wait for the conclusion of those appropriate and arm's length investigations, in particular, before making any other kind of further comment on it."

Last week, Edmonton police confirmed they have opened an investigation. A city spokesperson said officials are also looking into the youth's complaint under the Peace Officer Act.

"The professional standards unit will discuss the concern with both parties, research the incident, and advise them of the findings in writing," wrote Tarra Kongsrude in a brief statement.

Batul Gulamhusein with Progress Alberta, an advocacy group working with the youth, called the case one of racial profiling. 

Gulamhusein said ensuring "racial sensitivity training" is in place is key to making sure black and Indigenous people aren't targeted disproportionately by police.

City officials would not answer how much time transit officers spend on training for use of force or racial sensitivity. Those questions have now been directed to the Alberta Ministry of Justice and Solicitor General.

Program review requested

Black Lives Matter is calling for a review of the entire transit peace officer program, Mohamed said. Officers actively participate in detaining people and doing street checks, he says.

"We feel there's mission creep, where they're slowly moving into active policing roles without much transparency."

The teenager in the Jan. 19 case was ultimately issued a $250 ticket for loitering.

"I felt shocked," the teenager told CBC. "I felt so much hate against that peace officer. Like why did he do it?

"I think he's approaching us just because of our skin colour and the way we look."

The teenager filed a formal complaint with the city against the peace officers, sparking the investigations.