Front Burner

Above the Law chronicles police violence in Calgary

We speak with the co-director of a new documentary that’s looking at police brutality in Calgary, and asking whether there’s enough oversight to keep officers accountable.
Video shows that Calgary resident Godfred Addai Nyamekye was punched and kneed repeatedly by Const. Trevor Lindsay on Dec 28, 2013. (Lost Time Media)

In the last few weeks on this show, we've talked about a number of police forces under scrutiny across the country. But there's a city we haven't talked about, one that frequently has the highest number of police-involved shootings in the country -- Calgary. A new documentary streaming on CBC Gem examines the issue of police violence in Calgary. It's called "Above the Law" and co-director Marc Serpa Francoeur joins us today.

A spokesperson for the Calgary Police Service provided Front Burner with a statement regarding the documentary Above the Law. It reads, in part:

"Above the Law underscores something our Service has said many times in recent years – we need to do better. It should not take years to resolve complaints about police misconduct and the process needs to be consistent and fair for everyone involved.

We recognize that the accountability process at the Calgary Police Service has not always worked the way it should and we have been making changes to improve it. These include creating a triage system so cases where an officer may pose an ongoing risk to the public are investigated quickly and have more resources assigned, adding more civilian employees to help with the administration and oversight of files, and improving our training for investors examining misconduct complaints. We have also improved transparency by naming officers charged with a criminal offence, publishing professional conduct hearing schedules online, and publishing annual reports on all misconduct complaints including the outcomes of formal disciplinary processes.

Following an increase in police shootings in recent years, we also commissioned Retired Chief Justice Neil Wittmann in 2017 to review our use of force. We continue to focus on implementing the 65 recommendations of his report. Of these, almost 80 per cent have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented, and have resulted in us providing improved de-escalation training to our members, working with our partners to improve how we address mental health concerns, and providing less-lethal options like the ARWEN to members so they can intervene in situations from a safer distance without being limited to deadly force.

The cases highlighted in the documentary also continue proceeding through the criminal and disciplinary process. Constable Trevor Lindsay faces a disciplinary hearing this fall on non-criminal charges related to the Godfred Addai-Nyamekye case and an internal investigation is ongoing into why the other involved officers were not investigated. Constable Lindsay was also charged and convicted of aggravated assault following our investigation into Daniel Haworth's arrest. We cannot start our internal disciplinary process on that file until his sentencing and appeals on that conviction are completed, at which point it will be decided what discipline, up to and including dismissal, is appropriate.

Many of the issues highlighted in Above the Law continue to be areas where immediate improvement is needed. While we have made significant progress in recent years, we recognize that there is a lot of work left to be done."



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