By Jensen, Randy on September 1, 2020.
The Lethbridge Police Association is disappointed but not surprised by the lack of responsible or informed oversight in the recent decision by Lethbridge Police Association Chief Scott Woods to suspend Const. Mark Easter without pay.
“We are unsurprised but not because the decision was proper, or arrived at responsibly,” said LPA president Jay McMillan in a news release. “Moreso because those tasked with making it – the commission – are ill equipped and largely unqualified to provide oversight that includes an objective and informed decision making process.”
After allegations of assault were made against Easter, he was suspended without pay on Aug. 2, a penalty the LPA said is typically reserved for the most egregious offences with demonstrably extraordinary circumstances.
“There are allegations and those deserve to be addressed but there are guidelines for providing due process to anyone who is accused of an offence” said McMillan.
That did not happen here, the release continued. Within days the commission quickly endorsed the chief’s decision without any relevant details available to them and without affording the officer any degree of due process.
“Without an adequate review of the circumstances and a confirmation that they are in fact extraordinary we are seeing all the scrutiny and consideration from commission that you would see from someone getting to a decision by shaking their magic 8-Ball,” McMillan said. “I’ve never seen or even heard of this before.”
The LPA emphasizes how this, too, illustrates the desperate need for government and society to insist on layers of police reform – ones that include changes to the disciplinary process, but are not limited to particular sectors of police, the release continued. The members of the policing community appreciate the need for change and know that it has to be top-down with reforms that include the constitution of police commissions to address inequality, ignorance and incompetence.
“The way it stands right now there are people in important positions responsible for ‘providing and maintaining adequate and effective policing services’ as demanded by Alberta’s Police Service Regulations but they don’t have the skills or knowledge to do so,” McMillan contested.
There are currently very limited criteria established for police Commission membership eligibility and there is no mandatory training or testing.
“The members of the Lethbridge Police keenly understand what the cultural and political climate is around policing. They welcome much needed reforms and updates,” added McMillan. “We only ask that some respect be paid to due process and that assumptions are put aside in this instance until an objective finding can be made.”