June 18th, 2024

‘Be patient’: Lethbridge police chief discusses controversies at virtual town hall


By The Canadian Press on June 16, 2021.

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh speaks during a news conference in Lethbridge, Alta., on Wednesday, March 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/David Rossiter

LETHBRIDGE, Alta. – The head of police in a southern Alberta city has addressed criticisms of his department in the face of continued warnings from the justice minister that the force could be disbanded.

Lethbridge Police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh held an 80-minute virtual town hall on Tuesday night to outline plans for the department going forward.

He suggested ongoing media attention, policing during the pandemic, budget cuts and the opioid crisis have been major challenges for the Lethbridge Police Service.

The department has, among other things, faced allegations of officers conducting illegal database searches for personal use.

Mehdizadeh, who has been police chief since last August, delivered a plan for change to Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu in mid-April after the minister warned there were serious problems that had to be fixed immediately.

Madu sent that plan back because he said there were “substantive deficiencies” he wanted addressed by June 25th.

“He sent a letter that he wanted additional information which we are in the process of providing to him … the additional information he had asked for, really diving deeper into some of these areas,” said Mehdizadeh.

“We’re already working with his office to deliver all of that to him.”

The original plan included improvements in ethics, accountability and management of conduct files; annual ethics training and a review of the police service’s social media policy.

It also called for developing better leadership in current and future police members and restrictions on access to database searches.

Last year, two officers were temporarily demoted after a review determined NDP legislature member Shannon Phillips, while environment minister in 2017, was surveilled and photographed at a diner. The officers were apparently concerned about changes Phillips was making to off-highway vehicle use at a nearby wilderness areas.

Separately, five officers and one civilian are currently being investigated on allegations of improper database searches on Phillips while she was in cabinet in 2018.

“We have a few investigations on the go, and I’m looking forward to seeing the results on that, but the allegations are not good. We have been working to make sure investigators have all they need to do a proper and unbiased investigation to get to the bottom of it,” said Mehdizadeh.

The police chief said there are a number of allegations of misconduct against some officers, mostly dating back to 2017 and 2018, but investigations can take time to make sure they are legal and ethical.

“I just want the public to be patient so we can … provide a meaningful process-based approach in dealing with that and a balanced approach in dealing with individuals,” the police chief said.

“Not everybody needs to give a pound of flesh but we will hold people accountable.”

Mehdizadeh said safeguards have been added to the local database, including a mandatory field so anyone using it has to provide a reason why. There’s also a warning statement reminding users each time what the database is meant for.

He said there will be quarterly audits of the database “to make sure people are using it for only police activities and nothing else.”

Mehdizadeh said the use of social media is also being addressed to make sure it is “proper and respectful.”

Fewer than 50 people were online to watch the town hall.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 15, 2021.

– By Bill Graveland in Calgary

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pursuit diver

I was not able to watch the meeting, but I know from being given the opportunity to personally speak with the Chief where he stands on many issues and I trust him and truely believe he has what it takes to take our city back. He walked into a mess in multiple areas in the city, the department and citizens that lost confidence in the leadership or our city! He could have just turned and walked away, but he is willing! He needs our support and patience.
We have so many dedicated members on the LPS, who also are feeling the trumoil, while being run ragged over the last 5 years with the crime created from opening the SCS, where crime increased in that area almost 6,000%, that is not a typo, 6,000%, the opioid use increase where their officers were administering Naloxone doses to addicts who overdosed, often within blocks of the SCS, while all crimes increased! Council reduced their budget, putting more pressure on them to work harder to tackle an increasing problem, after being given a heavier work load.
Why is it that budgets are cut to police services when they are needed the most? Why?
LPS spent years looking for a new Chief, one came in and found it was over his head and this Chief is willing to stay. Anytime you have leadership issues at the top, it always filters down, no matter where, but it is more noticeable in organizations like police and military.
I truly believe Lethbridge is on track with several prgrams to take back our city’s reputation, and the city itself with many programs that are being put in place and I trust this police Chief to lead the LPS for their part.
We just need to make the right decisions in the next election to put in place a Council that is focused on taking back our streets/city, supporting business in it’s recovery from the SCS impacts and COVID and putting plans of major expenditures such as the $100 million performing arts complex, the $25 million Indigenous Interpretive Center (which should be on the Indigenous community, not in this city), on hold indefinitely and focus on showing the world Lethbridge is not the major drug consumption capitol that was even mentioned in TV shows, and a TV mini-serious named Pure.
We were once called a beautiful, clean city that many wanted to come back to retire in, not the busiest drug consumption site in the world where parks and downtown were over-run with indigenous addicts and prostitutes trying to support their addiction, and that change happened in just 5 years of mistakes and bad decisions.
It is just this simple – we will not ALLOW our streets to be taken over and our parks to turn into drug dens and flop houses. It IS our choice!
We just need leadership to act on it without feeling like they are being racist, colonialists for just trying to protect our city!
We CAN do this! I support this Chief and maybe it is a good thing that Justice Minister Maydu is involved, adding some strength to support the new Chief! There were/are issues that LPS needs changed, and like any other organization, even Justice, AHS, MP’s, MLA’s, City Council, or private business, there are always a few bad apples.
Lethbridge needed a wake up call! Now let’s support LPS and let’s take back our city!
I was not able to watch the meeting, but I know from being given the opportunity to personally speak with the Chief where he stands on many issues and I trust him and truely believe he has what it takes to take our city back. He walked into a mess in multiple areas in the city, the department and citizens that lost confidence in the leadership or our city! He could have just turned and walked away, but he is willing! He needs our support and patience.
We have so many dedicated members on the LPS, who also are feeling the turmoil, while being run ragged over the last 5 years with the crime created from opening the SCS, where crime increased in that area almost 6,000%, that is not a typo, 6,000%, the opioid use increase where their officers were administering Naloxone doses to addicts who overdosed, often within blocks of the SCS while all crimes increased! Council reduced their budget, putting more pressure on them to work harder to tackle an increasing problem.
Why is it that budgets are cut to police services when they are needed the most? Why?
LPS spent years looking for a new Chief, one came in and found it was over his head and this Chief is willing to stay. Anytime you have leadership issues at the top, it always filters down, no matter where, but it is more noticeable in organizations like police and military.
I truly believe Lethbridge is on track with several prgrams to take back our city’s reputation, and the city itself with many programs that are being put in place and I trust this police Chief to lead the LPS for their part.
We just need to make the right decisions in the next election to put in place a Council that is focused on taking back our streets/city, supporting business in it’s recovery from the SCS impacts and COVID and putting plans of major expenditures such as the $100 million performing arts complex, the $25 million Indigenous Interpretive Center (which should be on the Indigenous community, not in this city), and focus on showing the world Lethbridge is not the major drug user capitol that was even mention in TV shows, and a TV mini-serious.
We were once called a beautiful, clean city that many wanted to come back to retire in, not the busiest drug consumption site in the world where parks and downtown were over-run with indigenous addicts and prostitutes trying to support their addiction.
It is just this simple – we will not ALLOW our streets to be taken over and our parks to turn into drug dens and flop houses. It IS our choice!
We just need leadership to act on it without feeling like they are being racist, colonialists for just trying to protect our city!
We CAN do this! I support this Chief and maybe it is a good thing that Justice Minister Maydu is involved, adding some strength to support the new Chief! There were/are issues that LPS needs changed, and like any other organization, even Justice, AHS, MP’s, MLA’s, City Council, or private business, there are always a few bad apples.
Lethbridge needed a wake up call! Now let’s support LPS and let’s take back our city!

Last edited 3 years ago by pursuit diver