June 22nd, 2024

Justice Minister rejects Lethbridge Police Service plan

By Herald on May 31, 2021.

Lethbridge Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh, seen meeting with reporters. Herald file photo

Tim Kalinowski – Lethbridge Herald

Alberta Minister of Justice Kaycee Madu has rejected a plan submitted by the Lethbridge Police Service on how it would reform itself back in April, will be appointing a senior officer from another police force to advise on changes at the department, and will be asking Alberta’s Law Enforcement Review Board to hold a public inquiry on how Lethbridge Police Service officers have on several instances accessed the information of private citizens for seemingly no specific police purpose.

“I acknowledge this is not an easy task and I appreciate the effort and consideration that went into the (April) Plan as submitted,” says a letter addressed from Madu to Lethbridge Chief of Police Shahin Mehdizadeh. “It is therefore with regret that I must advise I was disappointed with the Plan. While it addresses some of my concerns surrounding recruitment, training, oversight, discipline and transparency, a detailed review by myself and department staff identified a number of significant and substantive deficiencies.”

Madu goes on to outline his expectations.

Madu says he expects a clear introduction to the previously submitted plan which emphasizes the problems it is trying to solve, and measures as to how this plan will achieve the desired changes at LPS.

Madu, secondly, demands the LPS includes details on the completion of outstanding misconduct investigations, and indicate how disciplinary processes will be dealt with “swiftly and firmly.” He also demands these investigations be prioritized by the LPS.

Thirdly, Madu expects the LPS to identify what resources it will use to complete these investigations and provide regular progress reports from the LPS and Police Commission, including an annual one on the progress being made on enacting reforms in the organization, to his office.

Madu is also demanding more community stakeholder engagement on reforming the police service from outside of the LPS and the Lethbridge Police Association, and a change in management strategy.

“As many of the concerns with the LPS relate to the culture of the service,” he states, “as reflected in the values, beliefs, and behaviours of employees, it is necessary to address the workplace culture and employee engagement to better assess the employees’ commitment to the organization and how they carry out their work. The change management strategy must include detail in terms of specific engagement initiatives that will be undertaken, the deliverables, and the timelines.”

Madu also said the Ministry must be provided with a copy of the Lethbridge Police Service’s recruitment strategy and information on how it will support the stated transformation objectives outlined in its plan, and should concretely define access protocols for using the Canadian Police Information Centre database which can be cross-checked randomly by an auditor.

And finally, says Madu, the overall transformation plan for the service must be a “living document” that “may be reviewed and adjusted as matters evolve.”

Madu confirms, to this end, he will also require the LPS undergo a public inquiry by the Law Enforcement Review Board which is to be completed no later than Nov. 30, 2021.

“To better assist the LPS in determining their ability/capacity to safeguard their record management systems and those of CPIC, and to mitigate unauthorized access and use,” Madu states, “I will be directing the Law Enforcement Review Board to conduct an inquiry into the LPS practices, policies, and processes on accessing and using LPS databases.”

In separate letters to Mayor Chris Spearman, Commission chair Robert van Sponsen and Chief of Police Mehdizadeh, Madu confirms he will be appointing an outside senior officer to ensure the LPS reform plans meet his expectations going forward, and he will appoint an outside advisor to the police commission who specializes in the proper civilian oversight and governance of a police force.

“A time frame for the secondment (of the senior officer) is to be determined,” he concludes. “I will also be assigning an individual that is well versed in oversight bodies to work with the Lethbridge Police Commission chair to address board governance issues.”

The Herald sought comment from the Lethbridge Police Service on the concerns included in Madu’s letter.

“The Lethbridge Police Commission recently received a request from the Minister of Justice to provide additional information in relation to the action plan it had submitted earlier,” says a statement released by the LPS to the media. “The Lethbridge Police Commission is in the process of working with the Lethbridge Police Service to provide that information, which included requests of the Commission which hadn’t been asked for previously.”

The LPS confirms no other comment will be made at this time.

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Obviously this is not over by a long shot. I urge the chief to make some tough decisions as minister Madu demands and I support the chief 100% in doing so. Our police officers have had this hanging over their heads for far too long as has the citizens of Lethbridge. The lack of professionalism by these officers have seen the light of day and cannot be swept under the rug anymore. I’m sure the morale of the good police officers is suffering as well.

Last edited 3 years ago by gs172