By Lethbridge Herald on March 8, 2021.
Lethbridge law enforcement officers are once again getting damaging national scrutiny after ASIRT revealed last month it was investigating five LPS officers, including Deputy Chief Scott Woods, and one LPS civilian employee, who accessed Lethbridge West MLA Shannon Phillips personal records eight times over an 11-month period for no apparent police purpose.
Phillips confirmed Woods’ involvement in media interviews conducted on Monday after further details of the allegations came to light during a CBC National News story which aired this weekend.
“That I can confirm,” she said in response to local reporters’ questions about Woods. “And there was no law enforcement purpose listed.”
Phillips was asked if the flurry of searches in 2018 may have been related to the investigation of two officers, Jason Carrier and Keon Woronuk, who conducted an unauthorized surveillance of her in 2017.
“That is up to the LPS,” she stated. “It’s not up to me to provide a reason why my records were accessed for no law enforcement purpose — that’s up to them.
“Quite frankly, they have a lot of work to do to repair public trust here. It has been broken, and when law enforcement does not enjoy public trust then you have a public safety problem.”
Phillips was recently awarded complainant status in the unauthorized surveillance case by the Law Enforcement Review Board after she was initially cut completely out of the disciplinary process for the officers despite being the target of the surveillance.
It is not the first time Phillips was listed as a complainant by the LPS in an investigation and simply not informed — in this case potentially jeopardizing her safety. While undertaking her FOIP request about LPS record check, Phillips discovered police had opened a file on an incident from 2016 of which she was not aware.
“There was a record in there of a complaint that was made of something that happened at a pub in 2016 of which I had no awareness,” she explained.
“Four and a half years later, I am opening up this file for the first time, and I see someone complained they had reasonable grounds that had been given a drink that had a drug in it, and they had reasonable grounds to believe that drink had been intended for me … I am listed as a complainant in that police file. I was never told. The Lethbridge Police Service, just as all police services, have a duty to warn. And they didn’t uphold that duty. That revelation was shocking to me. They cared so little about my personal safety, they didn’t even pick up the phone.”
Phillips said what is particularly disturbing is more than one officer accessed this very personal record on different occasions, and gave no police reason for doing so.
She said this experience, and the 2017 unauthorized surveillance incident, have eroded her trust and confidence in the Lethbridge Police Service. Her only “crime” in certain officers’ minds seems to be having the wrong politics, she said.
“I think they, (the LPS), need to take this latest round of stories about their competence and credibility very seriously,” Phillips stated. “I think the people of Lethbridge are getting pretty darn tired of these kinds of stories coming out of LPS. All of this has had a tremendously corrosive effect on people’s willingness to engage in the democratic process, whether that is through elected office or for involvement in civil society. That is regrettable.
“I want people to have no hesitation to do that because they are afraid of police intimidation and surveillance, or any of those things,” she added. “We live in a free and democratic society. That is why I am making sure there is accountability here.”
The Herald reached out to the Lethbridge Police Service for comment on these latest revelations, and in particular the involvement of Deputy Chief Scott Woods in them.
“The Lethbridge Police Service is unable to provide comment on the matter as it is part of an ongoing investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team,” read the emailed response from the LPS.
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