By Lethbridge Herald on October 2, 2020.
Lethbridge Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh says the Lethbridge Police Service will not be supporting Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips’ appeal to the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB), nor her request for a public hearing, on a discipline decision made against two LPS officers who admitted to undertaking an unauthorized surveillance of her in 2017 when she was Alberta’s Minister of Environment.
“This incident obviously happened before my time,” Mehdizadeh told reporters after the Lethbridge Police Commission meeting on Wednesday, “but from my review, and the briefing I have been given, there was a hearing that was done, and sanctions were given to the officers. So really, that’s where I end it. The sanctions have been given. There was a hearing that was done, and, from my perspective, I am not going to go any further than that.”
However, Mehdizadeh acknowledged Phillips, who had publicly called on him to support her appeal at a press conference held at her downtown office at the beginning of September, had the right to take her case to the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board and put the decision in their hands.
“I am all for process,” he said. “If we are asked (by the LERB) to provide comments, we can certainly do that. It is not about me opposing Ms. Phillips. She has every right to challenge that decision, and I am not there to oppose anyone or take sides on anything.”
In a July 9 hearing LPS officers Jason Carrier and Keon Woronuk admitted to using their positions as sworn officers of the law for personal and political reasons to try to overhear a private meeting between Phillips and local conservation stakeholders at Chef Stella Diner in Lethbridge.
The officers, both off-road enthusiasts, thought Phillips was discussing potential changes within the Castle area where off-road vehicles would have been restricted under a previous NDP government proposal, and acted to ascertain the content of the conversation by launching an unauthorized surveillance operation using police resources. (Phillips was actually discussing the potential release of bison into Banff National Park at the time when the unauthorized surveillance took place).
Woronuk later anonymously posted photos of the meeting on Facebook. Phillips launched a formal complaint with the Calgary Police Service when she became aware of the photos, and a subsequent police investigation led to the two officers. The CPS transferred the matter to the Medicine Hat Police Service for further evaluation which resulted in Police Act charges being laid. A disciplinary hearing was held on the matters which resulted in both officers being temporarily demoted for discreditable conduct.
Phillips did not find out about the hearing until reports began circulating in the media about it in mid-July. She has previously called for the two officers to be fired.
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