July 20th, 2024

ASIRT clears LPS officers in 2019 incident involving use of force

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman - Lethbridge Herald on November 23, 2023.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDapulido@lethbridgeherald.com

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) recently released the executive director’s decision regarding an incident involving Lethbridge Police Service officers that took place in November of 2019.

ASIRT says that an injury suffered by a 12-year-old child was an unintended consequence of police intervention, the use of force by police during the incident being deemed both necessary and reasonable.

According to the report, on Nov. 21, 2019 ASIRT was directed to investigate an incident from Nov. 16, 2019 that involved two LPS officers.

The allegation was that while the officers were dealing with an adult female, her 12 year old daughter was injured which resulted in a cut to her chin and the loss of a tooth. On Nov. 22 of 2019 a new allegation was added to the report in which the adult female said that her ribs were broken during her arrest.

The report states that on Nov. 16, 2019, at approximately 3:30 a.m. LPS received a complaint of a domestic disturbance at a residence. LPS officers spoke to a female who reported the disturbance and they asked her to identify herself.

The officers determined that the name provided by the complainant was not real and her actual identity was determined through further computer queries. During this process, it was also determined that she had warrants outstanding for her arrest.

 Approximately an hour-and-a-half later LPS received another complaint from the same residence that the upstairs tenant – the previous complainant – had stolen a phone and broken a window.

Two LPS officers attended this complaint and were advised about her outstanding warrants and previously concealing her real identity. When the officers arrived at the residence, they heard a disturbance in the back yard. They went to it and found the female trying to damage a dryer vent.

 When approached, she once again lied about her identity, but was told the officers were aware of her identity and her outstanding warrants, and therefore she was being placed under arrest. At that point, she was not handcuffed.

 While the female was being walked to the front by one of the officers, she managed to get away and ran up the stairs to the front door of her home.

 The officer was able to grab her by her shirt which caused her to lose her balance and fall just inside the entranceway. Inside the residence were her three children, her 12-year-old daughter and two sons aged two years and eight months old.

 The female did not comply with the officers and struggled with them while they attempted to control her. During this struggle, the playpen where her eight-month-old son was – which was located just inside the entranceway that led to the living room – was knocked over.

 At this point, one of the officers was kneeling beside the female’s right side holding her down with his body weight while the other officer was on her other side. While attempting to gain control of the female, her daughter jumped onto the back of the officer from behind.

She was punching him in the shoulder and trying to pull him off her mother. The officer pushed the 12-year-old away, but she came at the officer a second time and when she was close to the melee, the girl was hit in the facial area.

 In the meantime, the other officer managed to get one handcuff on the adult female while she continued to resist which caused the handcuff to swing around the officer’s head but then the officers were able to get the second handcuff on her.

 After the incident between the 12-year-old and the officer, the girl was noticed to have a cut to her chin and a chipped tooth. EMS was called and she was taken to the hospital where she received a couple of stitches. The chipped tooth was determined to be non-repairable so it was removed. This incident led to ASIRT’s original direction to investigate.

During ASIRT’s investigation into the initial incident, the adult female was interviewed, and alleged that she suffered broken ribs during her arrest.

As a result, ASIRT commenced an investigation into this as well. Given the direct relationship between the investigations into the original and second incidents, a single executive director’s decision was issued.

 In conclusion the report states that under Section 25 of the Criminal Code, a police officer is justified in doing what he or she is authorized to do and to use as much force as is reasonably necessary where he or she has reasonable grounds to do so.

 “After a thorough, independent and objective investigation into the conduct of the officers, it is my opinion that they were lawfully placed and acting properly in the execution of their duties. There is no evidence to support any belief that they engaged in any unlawful or unreasonable conduct that would give rise to an offence,” says Michael Ewenson, executive director of ASIRT.

 The conclusion further explains that while the use of force by one of the officers did result in the 12-year-old suffering some injuries, this was an unfortunate and unintended consequence, and the use of force by the officer was necessary and reasonable in all of the circumstances.

Similarly, the use of force by both officers to try and control the adult female was necessary and reasonable in all of the circumstances.

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