By Delon Shurtz on December 3, 2020.
A Lethbridge police officer is no longer facing a criminal charge in relation to an incident earlier this year at the police station.
Const. David Easter was charged in August with one count of assault in relation to the incident in the short term holding facility Feb. 9.
Police reported that an officer and a male prisoner inside a cell were involved in an altercation, which did not result in any injuries to the prisoner.
Easter was relieved from duty without pay pending the outcome of the matter in court, and on Wednesday in Lethbridge provincial court the Crown withdrew the charge.
The reason for withdrawing the charge was not provided during Wednesday’s brief hearing, and inquiries to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service in Calgary were not returned by deadline.
Easter was charged Aug. 23 following an internal complaint and an investigation by the LPS professional standards unit. The completed investigation, with a recommendation to lay an assault charge, was forwarded to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service for review.
“In this case I believe exceptional circumstances exist that warrant the relief of duty without pay for the good of the police service and to uphold the public expectation that police officers be held to the highest standards,” former police chief Scott Woods said in a statement announcing the charge.
In accordance with the police service regulation, the decision to relieve the officer from duty without pay was reviewed by the Police Commission shortly afterward and upheld. The commission did not explain its decision.
Lethbridge Police Association president Jay McMillan was satisfied with the conclusion of the matter, stating in a news release, “As a result of our day-to-day law enforcement responsibilities police officers have a high degree of trust and confidence in the judicial system and the dedication of those who work within that system to get it right.
“In this instance we were honestly confused by the initial interest in pursuing charges but extremely confident that common sense and the available evidence would win out and that Const. Easter’s innocence would be established.”
The LPA said it was concerned with the Police Commission’s decision to forego due process and uphold the Chief’s decision to suspend Easter without pay.
“Unfortunately we have had to come to expect behaviours and decisions at the commission level that are not always supported by law or conventional wisdom,” said McMillan, “but we are optimistic in this age of police reform that things can improve for everyone.”
The Lethbridge Police Service released a statement Thursday morning saying police do not make recommendations that charges be laid in such cases, they only provide the findings of their investigation for the Crown’s consideration. They say it was also the Crown’s decision this week to withdraw the charge against Easter.
LPS says Easter remains relieved of duty, now with pay, pending an internal review under the Police Act and no further details would be provided at this point as it is a human resource matter protected by privacy legislation.
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