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Sex trade arrests upset advocate

Edmonton Police Crest

EDMONTON (CP) -- An advocate for sex trade workers says a police sting that charged 55 prostitutes with drug-related offences targeted the most vulnerable people in society. And, the advocate suggests, it could harm relationships police have been cultivating with hookers as they investigate the city's string of unsolved prostitute murders.

Officers involved in the sting, called Operation Girl-Interrupt, approached sex workers looking to buy drugs. Fifty-one women and four men were charged with 97 drug-related offences.

Police said the sting was done in response to numerous complaints from residents and business owners in several inner-city communities about crime and traffic due to prostitutes and drugs in their neighbourhoods.

But Kate Quinn, executive director of the Prostitution Action and Awareness Foundation of Edmonton, said she has been told most of those charged have been denied bail and their first court appearances aren't scheduled until March.

Quinn said harassing prostitutes won't get them to change their lifestyles when the root causes of prostitution -- poverty and addictions -- haven't been addressed.


People's cops!
Police probes will soon have civilian oversight

Martin Ignasiak

The Alberta government will soon introduce legislation to create a civilian oversight committee to review findings of internal police investigations, the Sun has learned. Solicitor General Harvey Cenaiko, a former Calgary police officer, said the new law will be made public when the legislature resumes sitting, likely in mid-February.

"We're looking at proposals from all the police commissions, all the chiefs of police ..." Cenaiko told the Sun yesterday, after meeting with Edmonton Police Commission chairman Martin Ignasiak.

"We will be putting some civilian oversight in place, yes.

"It's not in the Police Act right now, but hopefully in the spring legislature."

One option being explored is the creation of a committee made up of a retired judge, a retired Crown prosecutor and a retired cop to review the findings of internal investigations.

The committee would not conduct the investigations themselves, but would review outcomes.

Ignasiak has long pushed for more civilian oversight.

"(Cenaiko) struck me as someone who has a solid understanding of the issues and, like me, he is keen on having a public complaints process that will promote public confidence in our police service," Ignasiak said.

"I think everyone who's familiar with this issue knows that it should be done sooner rather than later, and I'm really encouraged by his energy and enthusiasm."

Edmonton Police Association president Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff says his members will accept the idea of an oversight body to review serious cases where a member of the public is hurt or killed.

"As long as it doesn't replace what's already there, as long as it's designed as an oversight body to ensure that transparency is there and that the investigations are done in a timely manner and appropriate manner, and are reviewed to ensure that everything that needs to be done is (done) - we don't have any problem with that," Ratcliff said.

After being sworn-in as a cabinet minister last month, Cenaiko said one of his first priorities was to update the 17-year-old Alberta Police Act - including the way civilians file complaints against police officers.

Recently, city police have been accused of targeting Ignasiak and Sun columnist Kerry Diotte in an impaired-driving sting at a downtown lounge.

Two internal police probes related to the Nov. 18 incident are currently being conducted by EPS Insp. Rick Bohachyk.


Edmonton Police

Edmonton chief Fred Rayner

. . .Also here in Edmonton we have a unique Edmonton Police Commission.

The executive director, Robert Dolsky is on sick leave and the City has hired a vastly overpaid temporary consultant, one John Acheson. His salary is reported to be $600.00 per day.

Almost as much as our vastly overpaid Police Chief, Fred Rayner @ $199,000 annual. Not to mention our (four) deputy chief's at $158,000 annual. But I digress.

Our Police Commission Chair, Mr. Martin Iqnasiak, recently won a multi million dollar lawsuit against the City of Edmonton for a local Hotel. (The Sands) Mr Ignasiak, a lawyer continues to practice law in spite of his rather sensitive position. Correct me if I'm wrong here but is this not some kind of conflict of interest. The optics don't seem right somehow.

Perhaps in further submissions we should expand our areas of interest to include not only bad police and judges but the enviroment of appeal that is suspect like these fine citizens on the Edmonton Police commission…


Some truth to Ignasiak claim: ex-chief

A former police chief says there's "some truth" to the Edmonton Police Commission chairman's argument that people who question cops are painted as enemies of the force. "I think there is some truth to that," Doug McNally acknowledged this week after commission chairman Martin Ignasiak - often slammed for publicly questioning cops - decided to step back from a controversial police probe.

In a recent memo to Chief Fred Rayner, Ignasiak also questioned whether police "culture" might have contributed to an allegedly inappropriate surveillance operation last month at the Overtime Broiler and Taproom, 10304 111 St.

"I think there is a culture within police organizations, but it's different from organization to organization," McNally said.

"One of the cultures that you constantly want to battle against as a police administrator is the culture that says, 'My job is law enforcement,' when in actual fact the job is much, much broader than that."

Cops in Edmonton should prevent crime by working with citizens to create peaceful neighbourhoods through community policing, McNally said. Ignasiak has sparked important debate about how community policing is delivered, he said.

"I'm certainly supportive of the commission asking those tough questions. I firmly believe the administration is providing the appropriate responses and I hope the (Edmonton Police) Association begins to understand that is indeed the role of both parties."

Ignasiak has been the target of heavy criticism - especially from the police union - for speaking out about controversial issues such as cop chases and Taser use.

He has also recently come under fire while speaking for the commission about the high-profile Overtime drunk-driving investigation in which he is directly involved.

Police announced last week that a probe will examine complaints about the Overtime operation that allegedly targeted Ignasiak and a Sun columnist for political reasons.

In a Thursday speech, Ignasiak argued that public debate "without fear of censure or retribution" is necessary to improve the police service. "It doesn't mean one of us is anti-police and the other is pro-police," Ignasiak said.


Ignasiak questions 'mindsets'

If police improperly targeted two of their critics in a stakeout last month, Chief Fred Rayner should publicly explain whether cop "culture" allowed it to happen, says a leaked memo to the chief from the Edmonton Police Commission chairman. In the Tuesday letter, Martin Ignasiak said the commission expects "a detailed report" tomorrow about the Nov. 18 stakeout that allegedly targeted Ignasiak and Sun columnist Kerry Diotte. The commission also expects details about a news release issued three days later, the memo said.

"What are the cultural factors around the alleged events ... if there is truth to them, that would allow such an incursion into the fundamental role and responsibility of the media and of civilian authority over the policing program in this city?" said the memo. "Are there attitudinal mindsets within the Edmonton Police Service that would want to unilaterally change the role of the police in a free and democratic society?"

The memo goes on to note that "if there is an authentic basis" for concerns about police culture, it will likely "relate only to a small segment of the service."

Rayner announced last week that a two-pronged police probe will study allegations around the police operation at the Overtime Broiler and Taproom, 10304 111 St.

The investigation will be reviewed by a senior Calgary officer and is not expected to be finished by tomorrow.

But Ignasiak's letter urged the chief to publicly comment on the issue after an informal meeting with the commission, to bolster public confidence in police. Rayner need not identify the officers under investigation but should address several questions, including at what level the alleged sting was authorized "and why it was called off when I left the Overtime despite the fact that there were dozens more people in the bar and cars in the parking lot," Ignasiak wrote.

Police commissioners Jane Batty and Dave Thiele said they don't believe Rayner should be pressed to publicly comment tomorrow before the police investigation is done.

"I believe Martin (Ignasiak) should step aside on this issue," said Thiele.


Witnesses still to be interviewed in sting investigation

EDMONTON - The police commission and the public will have to wait for the results of an investigation into an alleged sting targeting the commission's chairman and a newspaper columnist.
Police Chief Fred Rayner cancelled an appearance before the commission Friday afternoon, saying the investigation isn't complete.

In a news release, police say investigators are still waiting for more witness statements and that "the quality of the investigation will not be sacrificed for the sake of expediency."

Thursday, commission chairman Martin Ignasiak stepped aside as the spokesman on the issue, saying his involvement has become "sort of a distraction."

Commission member John Brosseau, who temporarily takes over as spokesman, says he doesn't know when the investigation will be completed.

"I have faith and trust that it will be done shorter rather than longer," he said. "But the commission cannot force [Rayner's] hand to do it. Because, under legislation, it is his responsibility to look after this."

Mayor Stephen Mandel said the investigation should be done as quickly as possible.

"I just want to make sure that it's sooner. I think people want an answer to this question," he said. "And this is no pressure to get it done for them, but I think people want to see some action on this."

Ignasiak and Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte believe they were the targets of a police sting trying to catch them drinking and driving, because both have been critical of the Edmonton Police Service.

Both say they weren't intoxicated and took cabs home from the bar.

The incident happened two weeks ago, during an event hosted by the Canadian Association of Journalists at Overtime, a sports bar.

Two undercover officers were at the bar, police say, because they had a tip that a drunk patron was going to drive. The possible sting came to light when a newspaper reporter was listening to the police radio.

Three days later, a news release was sent out by police. It said the officer spotted a second intoxicated man in the bar that night and recognized him as a high-profile member of the community.

Thursday, council put three new members to the police commission, replacing people that weren't reappointed.

Murray Billet is a labour relations officer for the United Nurses of Alberta and an advocate for gay and lesbian rights. Brian Gibson has served on a number of community boards. Roger Laing is a well-known advocate for seniors.


Sidelined:
Cop commissioner backs away from sting probe

Edmonton Police Commission chairman Martin Ignasiak announced yesterday he will no longer deal with a police investigation into a controversial alleged drunk-driving sting. And his critics said they're relieved commissioner John Brosseau will instead handle all commission dealings with the Nov. 18 stakeout that allegedly targeted Ignasiak and Sun columnist Kerry Diotte for political reasons.

"I think what's important here is that we let Chief Rayner deal with the investigation," Ignasiak told reporters after delivering a speech on civilian oversight of police at the downtown Westin hotel.

"It's obviously best - given that my involvement appears to have become some sort of distraction - that commissioner Brosseau takes over that function."

Ignasiak, in his speech to the Rotary club, said it's important for all sides to be able to debate how to improve the police service without being accused of being "anti-police."

Ignasiak has come under fire in speaking for the commission about the issue because he is directly involved.

But Ignasiak defended his decision to urge Rayner in a Tuesday memo to publicly reveal some information today about the stakeout before the investigation is complete.

Rayner announced last week that a two-pronged probe will examine allegations around the police operation at the Overtime Broiler and Taproom, 10304 111 St., and an allegedly unauthorized news release issued three days later. The chief's executive assistant, Insp. Bryan Boulanger, is one subject of the news-release investigation.

The chief will decide when to reveal information from the investigation to the commission and public, Brosseau said. "The chief is aware that, as a commission, we want to see him proceed as quickly as possible," said Brosseau.

Police said in a news release yesterday at least half of more than 20 police and civilian witnesses have submitted statements. Cops have reviewed recordings of police radio transmissions currently undergoing a voice-identification process, the release said. No one was charged in the alleged sting.

Police will not publicly comment on details until the probe is over and will not update the commission today, said spokesman Andy Weiler.

The president of the Edmonton Police Association that in September called for Ignasiak's resignation believes the chairman's comments have gone too far, and he should have stepped aside sooner.

Ignasiak's memo to the chief, which questions whether police "culture" might have contributed to inappropriate police action, is "absurd," said Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff.

"For him to say that, he's tainting the investigation."

The head of the senior officers association, Supt. Ed McFarlane, said Ignasiak is lending "some credibility and objectivity" to the investigation by stepping aside.

Mayor Stephen Mandel agreed it's prudent to let Brosseau deal with the probe.


'I'm disappointed'

Edmonton Police Commission chairman Martin Ignasiak yesterday accused the city cops' media relations office of trying to "spin" the story of an alleged drunk-driving sting directed at him and an Edmonton Sun columnist. "I'm disappointed," Ignasiak said yesterday, after the Edmonton Police Service issued a press release about a review ordered by Chief Fred Rayner into the alleged sting.

"When the mayor and I met with Chief Rayner on Saturday, we had his undertaking that we would all say as little as possible about this until we knew exactly what happened.

"My understanding is the chief did not see this release before it was sent out."

On Saturday, Rayner met with Mayor Stephen Mandel and members of the commission to discuss reports that the EPS had set up a sting to catch drunk drivers leaving Thursday night's meet-and-greet mixer for journalists and provincial election candidates.

Sun sources said the sting was set up to catch Ignasiak and Sun columnist Kerry Diotte, both of whom attended the mixer and took cabs home.

Rayner promised to report back to the commission by 5 p.m. Wednesday.

But the EPS issued a press release yesterday that claims officers went to the site of the mixer on a tip that "a drunken patron was going to leave a downtown restaurant in his car.

"Officers went to the restaurant and identified the person. The man later left without taking his own car.

"During the investigation, officers noted a second intoxicated man whom they recognized as a high-profile member of the community. Officers remained at the restaurant and saw the man leave in a taxi. The officers then concluded their investigations."

Ignasiak attacked the release as an attempt by the EPS to "spin" the event before Rayner's inquiry is done. "The press release attempts to portray this as a simple drunk-driving incident," he said. "But the reason we spoke to Chief Rayner about this in the first place was because of the possibility a small number of EPS officers were targeting a journalist and a member of the Edmonton Police Commission."

Ignasiak notes that the press release clearly states the officers "concluded their investigation" after both men left without getting behind the wheel. There was no attempt, according to the press release, to capture anyone else who may have attempted to drive away drunk from the crowded bar.

Ignasiak said that he has "every confidence" that Rayner will find out what happened and why.

"However, the commission will have no choice but to call its own inquiry if it loses confidence in the chief," he said.

Ignasiak has had a rocky history with the EPS. Many police officers resented his criticism of EPS internal affairs investigations, and the questions he's raised about EPS vehicle pursuits and Taser use. The Edmonton Police Association called for him to be fired from his commission post last fall.


Chief to probe sting attempt

Police Chief Fred Rayner is promising to investigate reports that city cops set up a sting to nab drunk drivers outside a Thursday night meet-and-greet event for provincial politicians and journalists. And Sun sources said the sting was set up in part to target Edmonton Police Commission chairman Martin Ignasiak, who attended the downtown event sponsored by the Canadian Association of Journalists.

Ignasiak and Mayor Stephen Mandel - who also attended the event - held a private meeting with Rayner yesterday to discuss the reports. Mandel said Rayner promised to report back to them by Wednesday evening.

"We have to wait for the chief to get back to us. This is a significant issue," he said. "The information we have is sketchy, so we need to give the chief time to look into it."

Ignasiak said yesterday the chief appeared "genuinely concerned" about the allegation.

"I think it's safe to say he takes this very seriously," he said.

Sun sources also said the alleged sting targeted Sun columnist and CAJ chapter president Kerry Diotte, who took a cab home. Diotte is at times critical of the Edmonton Police Service and calls the alleged sting "underhanded."

"It gives a black eye to the hundreds of upstanding men and women on the EPS who put their lives on the line every day trying to make our city a better place," he said.

The CAJ event was attended by a number of noteworthy political figures. Mandel said he left around 9:30 p.m. after drinking nothing but ginger ale.

Ignasiak took a cab home.

New Democrat Leader Brian Mason had a driver for the evening. And Alberta Alliance MLA Gary Masyk said he teetotalled before driving off to a campaign event.

The president of the Edmonton Police Association said he "doubts very much" police targeted individuals in any sting.

"We do set up outside events where large numbers of people are drinking, to make sure none of them are driving," said Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff.

"As long as officers aren't targeting specific people, it's just police doing what police are supposed to do. But the chief is right to address the question."


'Cops' respond
Chase comments prompt blizzard of mail

Some boys in blue and their supporters are seeing red over my column dealing with a recent fatal police chase.

Frankly, I just don't see why my views have stirred up so much anger from several members of the Edmonton Police Service.

Pattie Kibbee, a 47-year-old mother of three, died early Friday morning after her car was broadsided at 100 Avenue and 156 Street by a car fleeing police.

In a weekend column, I pointed out that anger and outrage should first and foremost be directed at the driver of the vehicle who was fleeing police.

Cops nabbed four young people - including a 20-year-old driver - and laid a series of charges in connection with the fatality.

At the same time, I said there were many questions that had to be answered about the pursuit.

A patrol car began the chase but then turned it over the EPS helicopter, Air-1.

I questioned why police at a news conference could not give specific details on how the whole chase began. They could only say it started because they were attempting to pull over a stolen vehicle.

They couldn't say, for instance, if the car had been spotted being driven in a dangerous fashion or had been used in a crime.

That's a rather key consideration. Some police in other jurisdictions don't pursue a vehicle unless it's been involved in a serious crime.

Hindsight is 20/20, but it's not unreasonable to think future fatalities might be prevented if fewer vehicles were pursued.

I also stated it might be an idea for police to let an outside body review major incidents like this one. The EPS will conduct an internal review of the fatal chase.

That is not to say there's anything fishy about internal reviews, but external ones certainly do a lot to silence any public criticism of police methods.

Further, I brought forth the opinion the public might be better served if there were more police patrolling for bad drivers and fewer cops stuck behind desks or manning radar traps.

From the blizzard of e-mail I received for the column, you'd think I had just advocated a full pardon for killer Paul Bernardo. Many e-mails came from people claiming to be police officers.

"You gave one paragraph to putting the blame where it belongs and spent the rest of the story slagging the EPS, with innuendo about not following procedure, coverups and lack of information given to wannabe journalists at the Sun," ranted one reader.

"The criminals driving the car are the cause of this accident, unless an idiot such as yourself might blame the victim for not driving defensively enough ... F-you."

I take it I'm off this gentleman's Christmas card list.

It's too bad some people can't stick to a reasoned discussion during these times of tragedy. Suffice to say, I didn't at any time accuse police of a coverup or use innuendo to criticize them.

Another reader wrote:

"I suppose your editors believe EPS-bashing sells more papers than reporting the many positive events that they are involved in on a daily basis ...

"The Whitemud and Yellowhead should have photo radar 24/7 and then perhaps the law-breakers would learn to abide."

The reader went on to say "It is obvious this system is not working well," but it's the best we have at the current time.

Well, the fact we continue to have increasing numbers of accidents certainly tells me current enforcement methods do not work, so we must try something different.

Yet another reader had this to say:

"Why is it every time a chase ends in a death you guys place the blame squarely on police? Only an idiot would right (sic) that in a newspaper."

I'm not blaming police, but all citizens want to come up with new ways to stop such a tragedy from happening again.

Another reader trotted out this example of why he thought my views were flawed:

He wanted to know if I would blame police for the death of a break-and-enter suspect who was struck and killed by a car while running away on foot from police.

"Would that be the cop's fault?" asked the reader.

Of course it's not. But a police foot chase isn't likely to wind up in the death of an innocent third party, either.

The bottom line to this terrible recent tragedy is that nobody wants to see it repeated, and we have to do everything in our power to lessen the chance such a thing will happen again.

I think police officers, journalists and all citizens would agree on that.


Pity the innocent victim

There's bound to be outrage and anger over the latest fatal city police chase.

It ended early Friday morning with the tragic, senseless death of an innocent citizen - a 47-year-old woman whose car was broadsided at 100 Avenue and 156 Street.

Her 1992 Chevy Cavalier was hit by a 20-year-old man allegedly trying to flee police in a stolen 1993 Dodge Spirit.

If fate was more fair, the fleeing driver would have died in the crash instead of the innocent motorist. But that's life.

The driver and three others in the vehicle - including a 17-year-old girl - all survived the crash with relatively minor injuries.

The outrage over the chase will be strong, but I hope most of it will be targeted toward the person who's largely responsible for the tragedy - the driver of the car.

No matter how tragic the outcome of any police chase, we should always remember the person being pursued had the option to stop but did not.

That person is ultimately the one who deserves the brunt of people's anger.

That said, there are still questions and concerns arising from this chase.

Police officials have an uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot after such high-profile events by leaving too many questions unanswered.

More than 12 hours after the fatal pursuit, police were still not able to shed light on some key questions asked by a horde of journalists gathered at a downtown headquarters news conference.

Acting Chief Mike Bradshaw did say a police cruiser ended its chase of the stolen vehicle after the cops' Air-1 chopper took over the pursuit.

But Bradshaw could not say how fast the pursued vehicle was going or how close the chopper was to it.

He was also vague on whether or not two of the people in the fleeing car had been out on a type of parole or probation and would say only they "were known to police."

He bristled a bit when asked about who would review the fatal chase, saying a "senior member of the EPS" had that task.

Police don't like it when there's even a suggestion it might be better to have a more independent review.

The way I see it, if cops have nothing to hide, let someone else review a fatal chase. It looks far better to the public.

The acting chief on Friday did not seem too sure about precisely how the whole incident began.

He could only say the chase began after the car was reported stolen.

The details surrounding that are crucial because they're bound to raise more questions.

Was this chase necessary if it all began simply because an officer noticed a vehicle with stolen plates? Is that reason enough to pursue a vehicle, or should police wait until they see a driver being a menace to other motorists, or fleeing a major crime, before engaging him in a pursuit?

Although it could be months before an internal police probe of the chase is complete, Bradshaw was already confident Friday that police chase policy was followed.

I hate to be cynical, but isn't it too early to jump to that conclusion?

EPS chase policy says public safety - rather than law enforcement - is the main factor to consider in any decision to initiate, continue or end a pursuit.

It remains to be seen whether this pursuit will pass that litmus test.

Time will answer most of those questions but there are still others to consider.

Despite the fact the EPS helicopter has long been touted as the best weapon in cutting down on deadly pursuits, it obviously did not work in this situation.

Indeed, there were questions late last week about its use here. EPS cops have long boasted that motorists tend to stop dead in their tracks when a chopper gets above them and turns on its powerful spotlight.

Bradshaw said that powerful light wasn't trained on the fleeing vehicle at all. Citizens might be right to wonder why one of Air-1's greatest tools was not used.

Broader questions have to be posed as well, after this fatal chase.

Maybe, just maybe, we have to look at improving the way we police Edmonton - so as to ultimately make roads safer by getting truly dangerous drivers off the streets.

Maybe it's time to get cops out from behind their radar guns where they're picking off poor saps for driving 15 kmh or 16 kmh over the limit.

Maybe it's time those cops did more patrolling and got some help from a few extra well-trained police officers who are now filling desk jobs better left to civilians.

Then maybe, just maybe, another horrible tragedy like this could be averted.

It's worth a try.


Can't fight city cops
Appeal to law board could cost him $5,000, lawyer discovers

Regina lawyer Deron Kuski says he found out first hand the system works against people trying to complain about police.

Kuski claims he was wrongfully arrested and jailed by the Edmonton Police Service in August 2002 after jaywalking across Whyte Avenue.

He's pursuing a civil suit against the EPS.

His complaint to EPS internal affairs officials was dismissed a while back, so Kuski figured he'd appeal to Alberta's Law Enforcement Review Board. That's an independent, quasi-judicial body established under the Alberta Police Act.

But he withdrew his complaint, scheduled to be heard this past week in Edmonton.

He said he had no choice, since much of the onus to prove misconduct and most costs related to the proceedings were his responsibility.

"It's absolutely ridiculous," spat Kuski, whose father Gordon is one of Saskatchewan's top litigation lawyers.

"After making a complaint I'd have to get my witnesses together, fly them out to Edmonton, pay for accommodation, cross-examine them and the police, and make legal arguments. It makes no sense."

He likened it to a citizen who calls police about a drunk driver, then is expected to prosecute the motorist in court. "A person should appear in proceedings like this only as a complainant and witness."

Kuski figures the whole case before the Law Enforcement Review Board would have wound up costing $5,000 including travel expenses and lost work time.

"I've been told a lot of people don't carry through with their complaints to the board. Well, it's no wonder."

Kuski said he was on Whyte Avenue about midnight on the August long weekend in 2002 with his brother and his brother-in-law.

The trio had just gotten down to Whyte Avenue. "I'd had a few drinks before. I wasn't drunk," Kuski said.

Kuski was waiting to cross Whyte Avenue at 105 Street. Since there was no traffic, he began to cross just before the light had turned green.

He said one of two constables on the opposite side of the street confronted him "and asked, 'Do you have any identification?'

"I patted my pockets and said, 'No I don't think I do.' "

Kuski said the constable then asked him to submit to a search. He refused.

"I said something like, 'Why would you search me?' "

Seconds after that, Kuski was handcuffed and pushed to the ground, he said.

"It was unbelievable how quick and how aggressive he was."

The lawyer was hauled down to Strathcona station and tossed into the slammer.

He couldn't quite figure out why he was taken to jail. When he was being held, he asked the cops why he'd been arrested.

"They said it was for resisting arrest. I said, 'OK, what was I being arrested for in the first place?' "

That, he claimed, stumped them and they then said he'd failed to identify himself to a police officer, which is an offence.

Kuski and his witnesses, however, swore affidavits saying the lawyer was not asked to identify himself before he was arrested.

"The police version of events is that the constable asked, 'What's your name?' and I answered, 'None of your business.'

"But that's not true."

Kuski said he was issued a $40 jaywalking ticket and one for failing to identify himself. He paid both, not wanting to come to Edmonton to contest the latter ticket.

It sounds to me like something's rotten in Denmark.

I think the Law Enforcement Review Board should make it easier for serious complainants to have their cases heard.

I tried to get comments on Kuski's case from the board but my two phone messages to officials there were not returned. Neither was my call to Edmonton Police Commission Chairman Martin Ignasiak.

But the former head of the review board told Sun reporter Paul Cowan that it might make sense to have a better funding arrangement for people who make serious complaints against police.

Patrick Knoll, now a law professor at the University of Calgary, said the burden of meeting the cost of bringing witnesses discourages complaints from being pursued.

"There should be some mechanism where funding is available to help people," Knoll said.

He figures funding could pay for things such as witnesses' travel and accommodations if the board deems the complaint to have merit and not be "vexatious."

That makes a whole lot of sense.

It's in the best interests of citizens and the Edmonton police force to have all serious complaints get a full hearing.

That doesn't seem to be happening under the current setup.


Time to clear the air
Photo-radar contract probe is taking far too long

There are long-standing allegations of misconduct reaching into the senior ranks of the Edmonton Police Service - and cops aren't in a hurry to get to the bottom of things. It all centres around the EPS contract to a company that provides photo radar and red-light camera technology to our city.

This tale began March 1 when a city council committee approved - on the advice of police and without any debate - a 20-year, $90-million sole-source contract with Affiliated Computer Services (ACS) of Dallas.

The firm has been doing work here for four years earning up to $16 per traffic ticket issued.

I was shocked the contract wasn't put out to tender and wrote a column saying so.

Committee members told me they had thought the deal would go to council for approval or had already been vetted by the police commission.

Neither assumption was true. With the committee's OK, the contract was essentially a done deal.

Committee members, including then-councillor Stephen Mandel, admitted the politicians erred in their initial handling of it.

After my March 5 column appeared, an EPS whistle-blower sent me an e-mail alleging three cops who recommended the sole-source contract with ACS had received generous unauthorized perks from that very company, including paid travel.

EPS began probing the allegations in March and turned the probe over to RCMP in May.

The EPS policy and procedure manual is clear in defining misconduct, especially in a section headlined "corrupt practice."

One form of corrupt practice, says the manual, is "directly or indirectly soliciting or receiving a payment, gift, pass, subscription, testimonial or favour without the consent of the chief of police."

So why in the hell is this probe taking so long? It's not a complicated matter.

Either these three EPS cops wrongly took perks without the authorization of the chief of police or they did not.

Doesn't the EPS want to get out from this dark cloud of suspicion immediately?

But there's more to this story - much more.

After the spit hit the fan in March the city's police commission vowed it will automatically review any EPS contracts worth more than $250,000. The commission then put the long-term radar and red-light contract out to tender.

That tender deadline came up this past Monday amid new allegations uncovered by Sun reporter Andrea Sands.

Spokesmen for two U.S. companies told the Sun they did not bid on the Edmonton job figuring the contract specifications were basically tailor-made to favour ACS.

ACS and two other firms - one Albertan and one Australian - did submit bids for the local job.

Also disturbing is new information uncovered by the Sun involving an ACS bid in Philadelphia for that city's red-light camera contract.

This fall, three competing bidders complained that Philly's tender was written in a way to favour ACS - especially its use of old technology (35 mm film) over digital.

In September, the tender was rewritten and a competing company won Philadelphia's contract.

So why should the average citizen care about this twisted tale involving much-hated photo radar and red-light cameras in Edmonton?

First off, the long-standing relationship between ACS and some city police officers appears too cozy and seemed, almost by design, to circumvent civilian oversight.

This whole sorry affair began with police officers trying to strike a $90-million deal with a single-source contractor without getting competing bids and without permission of the police commission.

That's downright undemocratic - and as taxpayers we'd never have known if this was the best deal for the city financially.

That alone is scary. But it's equally alarming that the RCMP probe into corrupt practice allegations is stalled - if it ever really began at all. That only adds credence to the arguments of some cynics who insist you can't have high expectations when you've got cops investigating cops.

What happened to the motto that the Mounties always get their man?

Although he won't say so publicly, I have no doubt this whole Radargate mess is causing Edmonton police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak real headaches.

"We've decided as a commission we won't make a final decision on the photo-radar contract until the RCMP investigation is concluded," Ignasiak told me, saying EPS Chief Fred Rayner indicated the probe should be wrapped within a month.

Further, the commission will hire "an independent expert" to assess the deal.

Those are exceedingly smart moves by the commission and they'll go a long way toward solving this stinky situation.


Mayor steps in on cops dispute

Mayor Bill Smith is "disappointed" that the head of the police union wants the Edmonton Police Commission chairman disciplined regardless of talks at a meeting next week. "My understanding is that people will come to that meeting with suggestions of how to improve things," Smith said.

The mayor has arranged to meet Tuesday with commission chairman Martin Ignasiak, Edmonton Police Association president Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff and police Chief Fred Rayner in an attempt to mend the rift in relations.

Ratcliff has filed a complaint with the mayor demanding that Ignasiak be disciplined or fired.

The police union represents about 1,200 rank-and-file officers and argues Ignasiak has made inappropriate comments to media criticizing police. The comments have damaged cops' credibility with the public, Ratcliff said.

"We'll sit down, certainly, and try to get some resolution here but, like I've said, the damage isn't just some offhand quip in the paper about how he feels one day," Ratcliff warned. "An apology isn't going to cut it because our officers wear this out on the street every day."

Ignasiak has emphasized that he and the commission believe the vast majority of officers adhere to the highest ethical standards. But he insists it's the commission's job to monitor the police, keep the public informed and ensure taxpayers are getting value for their money.

Smith wouldn't say yesterday whether he agrees with Ratcliff's claim that Ignasiak has overstepped his bounds.

"I think it's important that all of us sit down at that meeting and review what the role and responsibility is for everybody, and that includes (Staff) Sgt. Ratcliff."

The Criminal Trial Lawyers Association joined the fray yesterday, suggesting police were overly sensitive to criticism because previous commissions have been "more of a police lapdog than a civilian watchdog."


Police chief seeks outside review
File alleges he, eight other officers consorted with prostitutes while on duty

EDMONTON - Police Chief Bob Wasylyshen has ordered an independent legal review of a police file that alleges he and eight other officers engaged in inappropriate behaviour with prostitutes more than 20 years ago.

A lawyer will be hired to recommend how the allegations in police file H-316 should be investigated according to the requirements of the Alberta Police Act.

Despite the chief's comments, the Edmonton Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association insists a judicial inquiry is the only way to restore the public's confidence in the police service and exonerate those who have been tainted.

"Only a judicial inquiry will be equipped with the tools needed to get to the bottom of this mess," said Rod Gregory, acting association president.

The case is a prime example of why the solicitor general must amend the police act so complaints against police are investigated by independent third parties, said Gregory. His organization has called for such changes for 15 years.

"The present situation involving the chief of police in Edmonton is but the latest demonstration of the flaws in the current system," he said.

The Edmonton Police Commission is also calling for changes so complaints against police are investigated by an independent body.

Photocopies of the documents in file H-316 were turned over to the Edmonton Police Service's internal affairs department on Thursday by retired detective Vern Colley. Wasylyshen sent a registered letter to Colley earlier this week asking for his file, because the original cannot be found at police headquarters.

The file will remain in the custody of the police service's legal advisers until an independent lawyer is hired to review it, likely next week.

The police chief said he is not prepared to make further comments until the independent investigation is completed.

In a letter to the police service, Colley's lawyer, Tom Engel, said his client will co-operate with any investigation into the original complaints, provided it is not conducted by Edmonton police.

He said the file Colley copied and sent to the EPS was not the original.

CBC's Disclosure aired a report Tuesday about the allegations in the file, which were investigated by Colley in 1983 when he was a police detective.

Colley said he interviewed 23 prostitutes, some of whom claimed they were forced to give police officers sexual favours and money. He said then-chief Bob Lunney told him to drop the investigation after his report identified nine police officers, including Wasylyshen, as suspects. Wasylyshen was a sergeant on the tactical squad at the time.

It's not known what happened with the investigation after Colley was ordered to abandon it, whether the allegations were passed on to internal affairs, as they should have been, or what happened to the original file.

In a news conference Wednesday, the chief angrily denounced the allegations as "bizarre" and said they were "devastating" for him and his family.

Wasylyshen, who is considering legal action against CBC, said he was cleared of any wrongdoing in 1983.

The CBC program acknowledged its own investigation failed to turn up any evidence to suggest Wasylyshen had any involvement with prostitutes.

COMPLAINTS

  • Prostitutes have made six complaints against city police officers in the last three years.
  • Three said officers cursed at them or called them names.
  • Three complaints were about sexual or physical abuse. One is still under investigation, one was found to be unsubstantiated and one was dismissed after the woman admitted that she lied.

'Very angry'
Police chief denies allegations of sex with prostitutes

Police Chief Bob Wasylyshen vehemently denies allegations made by a former colleague in court documents that he was one of numerous officers who allegedly engaged in sex acts with prostitutes back in 1983. Wasylyshen - who is due to retire next month - said he was "very angry" last night after watching a CBC documentary about the allegations contained in an old police file.

"I thought overall that there was a great deal of bias in the way the program was put together. There was certainly some pieces of inaccuracy in it, and, right along with the bias, some unfairness as well in the way the story was portrayed," he said in an interview with the Sun.

The chief said he'll respond further to the allegations today, though he added it's too early to say whether legal action will be taken to defend the force's reputation.

"I can only imagine people sitting and watching their television sets seeing this very disturbing story, creating all sorts of questions in their mind about this and wanting some answers," he said.

Wasylyshen said he's been up front about the existence of the allegation since it surfaced decades ago.

"My family's aware of it, my colleagues are aware of it, I've always brought it up whenever I've been vying for promotion ... I've taken great pains to ensure everybody knows. I want people to know the allegations are false insofar as it relates to me."

As a tactical supervisor at the time, it would have been very rare for him to have any contact with prostitutes at all, he said, adding the implication that he ever had improper contact with a hooker is "a horrible suggestion."

Former city police detective Vern Colley stated in an affidavit that in June 1983, he was asked to investigate allegations that cops "were picking up street prostitutes and using them for sexual gratification and some of them might be taking their money."

Months later, Colley said he was interviewing prostitutes when the ladies claimed they could ID cops who had been taking them off the street to the force's pistol range and Clover Bar range "for sexual purposes."

Colley claims in the court papers he obtained a photo of Wasylyshen - then a sergeant in the tactical unit - and one prostitute identified Wasylyshen as one of the "culprits."

Colley says he was later called to a meeting with chief Robert Lunney, superintendent Leroy Chahley, and an inspector and staff sergeant. Colley claims Lunney told him he had ID'd "some bad people and that I was to cease and desist any activities on the file and that he would be looking after the matter."

When contacted by the Sun yesterday, neither Lunney nor Chahley, nor former staff sergeant John Torgerson said they could recall the meeting.

Lunney said the investigation was ended because the method by which Colley obtained the photograph compromised its use as reliable evidence. So Lunney told the deputy chief to end the investigation and "cease and desist" further inquiries.

Lunney said Colley did not follow proper investigative techniques, and as a result the probe "was going right off the rails."

"Had (Colley) continued it would've caused all sorts of repercussions. Police carry out official investigations and they have to be done right and they have to be done professionally. If they're not, you have to put a stop to it."

Cop spokesman Annette Bidniak called the CBC report "shoddy." Bidniak said police "feel they weren't interested in balancing, they're more interested in stirring the pot."