May 20th, 2024

Police Commission denies request for public inquiry

By Al Beeber - Lethbridge Herald on November 23, 2021.


The Lethbridge Police Commission will not be ordering a Section 32 Public Inquiry of the Alberta Police Act requested by the lawyer of MLA for Lethbridge West Shannon Phillips.
On Monday, the police commission issued a statement to media saying after receiving legal advice it considered several factors before making the decision.
The request for a hearing was made by Calgary defence lawyer Ruttan Bates about how the Lethbridge Police Service deals with whistleblowers. Specifically, the request was made regarding the circumstances of two anonymous whistleblower disclosures, according to a Herald story on Sept. 30.
At a commission meeting in September, Michael Barnes made a virtual appearance and also requested answers to other questions about reports of police misconduct in the LPS.
In its decision, the LPC “determined that the circumstances around the request are problematic and make a proper investigation particularly difficult. Not only do the anonymous communications lack specific information that definitely confirms they originate from LPS employees, the allegations contained in them lack any substantive supporting details.”
The commission added “nevertheless, the request from Ruttan Bates does highlight the important areas for community policing: good governance, safe workplaces, as well as the trust and respect of the community.
“The LPC continues to take this very seriously and reiterates that both the City of Lethbridge and the LPS have policies and procedures in place that deal with safe and respectful workplace concerns as well as whistleblower protection. The LPC has instructed Chief Mehdizadeh to ensure all employees of the LPS are made aware of these policies and procedures. The LPC encourages employees who have such concerns to bring them forward with the assurance that their concerns will be investigated confidentially and appropriately,” chair Rob vanSpronsen wrote.
The factors considered by the LPC include:
* the nature of the allegations set out in the communications;
* the anonymous nature of the communications;
* Do the communications demonstrate a workplace that is not safe or respectful as is required by the law?’
* What is the potential cost, compared to the likely benefit, of a Section 32 inquiry?
In a statement to media Monday after she spoke at a press conference in which Rob Miyashiro discussed winning the provincial NDP nomination for Lethbridge East, Phillips said the reputation of the LPS has suffered greatly locally and across the country and has gotten international attention for the way the LPS has conducted itself, investigations and disciplinary processes “into misconduct that made me both a target and a victim in my own community.
“The police commission is charged with an oversight role. It is its job to hold this police service accountable. I have not been convinced since 2017 that they have discharged their duties appropriately. So we will be reviewing this decision,” said Phillips.
“I will have to say I’m not surprised given the level of incompetence and oversight I have seen from this commission for four years. We have a problem of public trust and ensuring public confidence. And that’s what public safety means when the public has trust in a police service.
“My own trust has been shaken as has my own sense of personal security, particularly given how serious this disclosure was. So while I am not surprised at the breathtaking incompetence of the Lethbridge Police Commission, I have learned to live with this sense of fundamental insecurity in own home and my own community and I will be reviewing my options,” Phillips said.

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