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Alberta Police

Police need outside investigator, says commission head

Martin Ignasiak

Allegations of police misconduct should be investigated by a civilian oversight committee, Alberta's solicitor general and Edmonton's police commission chairman agree. "These complaints are made every month," commission chairman Martin Ignasiak said yesterday.

"There's a number of complaints against the conduct of individual police officers. Those complaints as a matter of course should be dealt with by an outside body.

"We maintain that police shouldn't investigate police because if that happened 20 years ago, then this issue of H-316 wouldn't be an issue."

Former city cop Vern Colley recently told media about his 1983 investigation - file H-316 - into complaints by a number of prostitutes that they were allegedly shaken down by some city cops for sex or cash. But before he could complete the probe, police brass at the time ordered him to abandon it, Colley claims.

The force has since ordered an independent review of Colley's file, H-316. Its findings are due next week.

"If (Ignasiak) feels there needs to be further investigation, I will conduct an independent (review)," said Solicitor General Heather Forsyth.

Forsyth said she's committed to implementing a citizen oversight committee by year's end - more than four years after a government review of the Police Act was launched to deal with allegations the police force had been infiltrated by an outlaw motorcycle gang.

However, what that citizens committee will look like and what its mandate will be have yet to be formulated.

"We are moving forward," she said. "We realize it's a priority. We want to make sure we have the right decision for not only the men and women who serve in this province that do a helluva good job but also the citizens of this province."

She says she'll review independent bodies in Ontario and Australia to determine how best to amend the Police Act.

Ontario uses a civilian agency to look into allegations against police officers, while Australia has a police integrity commission that looks at serious claims of police misconduct.

"We want to make sure we have the best model possible for Albertans," Forsyth said. "By the end of the year we will have some sort of model up."

Acting police chief Mike Bradshaw said yesterday it's a "vocal" and "very, very small minority" of people who have complained to police about the current investigation process.

"It's not as if hundreds and hundreds of people are phoning us every day," Bradshaw said.

The cop investigations follow requirements in the Police Act, and if those rules change, that's fine, he said. "Anything we do with any sort of investigation is governed by that act."