An Edmonton lawyer wants to know why the Edmonton Police Service spent more than $1 million in legal fees in 2003.
Lawyer Tom Engel said Edmonton police paid almost twice as much for lawyers in 2003 than Calgary police.
"What the public needs to know is, why does Edmonton have such a greater need for lawyers than Calgary does?" said Engel.
According to documents obtained by the Sun, the Edmonton Police Service paid out more than $1.02 million in fees to outside legal firms in 2003. Through a Freedom of Information request made by Engel, Calgary Police Service disclosed that it paid $542,382.60 for "external counsel."
"I received the figures from Edmonton police and I thought it was very high," said Engel. "But I wanted another community to compare it to, and when I received Calgary's numbers it was exactly what I thought.
"Basically, there are two reasons that you need counsel - to defend yourself or to take an offensive action. You are either bringing or defending claims."
Four legal firms got the majority of EPS's business; $226,128 was spent at Fraser Milner Casgrain; $226,011 was spent at Pringle & Associates; $204,359 was spent at Reynolds Mirth Richards & Farmer; and another $156,430 was spent at Bennett Jones. In total, EPS did business with 22 different legal firms in 2003.
Brian Gibson, chairman of the Edmonton Police Commission, said he would not be able to comment on the fees as he was not a part of the EPC in 2003.
"And I don't have those numbers in front of me," said Gibson.
Calls to the Edmonton Police Association executive were not returned.
Good to know they're allegedly trying to speed up complaints against the EPS...but some might wonder if it's appropriate that many of those cases will now be handled by non-internal affairs cops.
Wouldn't that make it extremely hard to be impartial when you know you're temporarily assigned to IA -- the so-called "rat squad" and then have to likely go back to work with your regular unit?
(See that detail in the story below)
City police yesterday asked for and received an "exceptional" number of time-limit extensions on old Internal Affairs cases, as the section struggles to beat down a backlog of complaints against cops.
"You know there's been a lot of frustration around this commission over the long delays in completing IA cases," Edmonton Police Commission member Murray Billett told acting police Chief Darryl da Costa during yesterday's commission meeting.
"We know there have been a lot of files sitting around for a long time," said commissioner Roger Laing.
"The (reasons why) remain to be seen."
IA got commission approval to extend deadlines on 65 files, a number that even IA Staff Sgt. Phil Bailey admitted was "exceptional."
Bailey said part of the reason for the high number was the fact the commission wasn't planning to meet in August.
"So we had to get all of these approved at once," he said.
Over the past few months, five officers from various EPS sections have been temporarily seconded to IA to work through its deep backlog of complaints against officers. Bailey said the transfers are helping.
"Once we have the backlog eliminated, we should be able to handle incoming complaints with our usual staff," he said.
Criminal lawyers have been complaining for years that the slow processing of IA cases frustrates complainants and violates the principle of swift justice.
According to the Police Act, misconduct complaints against officers must be dealt with within three months.
The extensions received yesterday varied in length from weeks to almost a year.
Outspoken defence lawyer Tom Engel has accused the EPS of deliberately dragging out IA investigations so that complainants lose clear recollection of the events, or become so frustrated that they withdraw their complaints.
Da Costa said he's made an effort to help reduce the IA case load by promoting a culture of "ethics" in the EPS.
"We're doing that by talking to the members (about ethics) when they're on parade, getting supervisors to write articles on ethics," he said.
"We're frustrated with the process - it does take a long time. But the officer involved is entitled to a fair hearing."
Bailey insisted the number of incoming IA complaints has not been on the increase over the past year.
Laing said the commission will meet with IA representatives in September to measure their progress in expediting the investigations.
Edmonton's acting police chief has ordered yet another internal investigation into the conduct of some officers, this time in relation to an internal e-mail that made racist comments about aboriginals.
"An e-mail was recently brought to my attention where the author advanced his theory on how aboriginals should be dealt with by police," acting chief Daryl da Costa says in a special June 9 communique, obtained by The Journal, that was sent to all Edmonton Police Service members.
"The e-mail was racist, discriminatory, disgusting and offensive and I have had to direct yet another investigation into the actions of our members.
"Be advised that the EPS has zero tolerance for this type of conduct."
Da Costa underscores "zero tolerance" in his statement, which represents the toughest public condemnation by an Edmonton police chief of misconduct in recent memory and may signal a move toward increased discipline in a police service plagued by scandal.
The e-mail, intended as a joke, contains 10 rules for how to treat an aboriginal. It was distributed only among some officers in the downtown division, where one officer was suspended with pay in March for allegedly assaulting inner-city residents.
A clearly angry and frustrated da Costa says that while he is impressed with the dedication and calibre of work of most members, "I am still faced with having to deal with a very small minority that just doesn't seem to get it. I am dismayed at how 'mindlessly' these members get themselves into trouble."
Da Costa tells his officers that if they hold these racist views, "please consider other career options as you are making all of us look bad." He further warns that "anybody involved in this newest matter can expect to be contacted by an Internal Affairs investigator in the very near future."
First-time offenders, he says, will receive an automatic official warning on their record for three years. A second offence will immediately be directed to a disciplinary hearing.
But internal affairs investigators may face a wall of silence when they begin their inquiries.
The Journal has learned that several officers attending a meeting of the Edmonton Police Association last week wore T-shirts emblazoned with a red circle around a rat, crossed by a 45-degree angle line.
"It was the sign for 'no rats,' which means nobody is supposed to rat out another member in an investigation," said one person who saw the T-shirt and spoke with the officer who wore it at the meeting.
"This just shows the culture that exists within the Edmonton Police Service."
Da Costa did not return a call to his cellphone Sunday, and police association president Peter Ratcliff could not be reached for comment. Police commission chair Brian Gibson was out of the city and also could not be contacted.
The reputation of the Edmonton Police Service has been tarnished in recent months by a series of high-profile scandals, one of which led to the firing of then-chief Fred Rayner in February.
It will be months before all the internal disciplinary hearings into how some officers conducted themselves in relation to the controversial Overtime stakeout are completed. In that case, traffic officers targeted a journalist and the police commission chairman in an attempt to catch them driving while drunk after attending a Canadian Association of Journalists function at the Overtime bar in downtown Edmonton.
Both men, sober by witness accounts, took cabs home.
The journalist, Sun columnist Kerry Diotte, is suing the service and 19 of its officers for $1.75 million.
In another case, the RCMP is investigating allegations that several EPS traffic officers inappropriately accepted gifts from a private photo-radar company that the service attempted to award a $90-million contract without any public tender. The Mounties recently sought and received a six-month extension on their investigation.
Meanwhile, internal affairs officers are investigating allegations that two police officers pepper-sprayed and then stuffed a man into the trunk of their cruiser after he caused trouble during a traffic stop.
The Crown had to abruptly drop charges of resisting arrest against the man after the officers, during cross-examination, suddenly couldn't remember how their prisoner was transported to jail. The police are also being sued in that case.
"We have a tough summer ahead," da Costa says in closing his communique.
"I take my responsibility to protect the integrity of the organization and its members seriously.
"I will not let the actions of a few individuals make our job collectively harder than it has to be."
EDMONTON - A Court of Queen's Bench judge essentially threw out drug and gun charges against a Lebanese-Canadian man Friday, arguing Edmonton police unlawfully detained him on suspicion of drug dealing and violated his charter rights.
The justice ruled the officer seemed to be acting on the assumption Safadi was a drug dealer because of his ethnicity and the discovery of as many as five cellphones inside the car.
"The power to detain cannot be executed on a hunch," Court of Queen's Bench Justice Lawrie Smith told the court before staying all nine counts against Khaled Fadl Safadi, charges stemming from an arrest on June 1, 2003. "It was an arbitrary detention and the answers given (by Safadi) were compelled."
A stay means the charges can again be brought forward within one year but that rarely occurs. Safadi, 26, of Edmonton was released from custody shortly after the justice made her decision.
Smith found that Const. Kevin Berge violated Safadi's charter rights by detaining and questioning him as a passenger in a 1993 BMW pulled over for improper window tinting at 97th Street and Yellowhead Trail. It was during that questioning that packets of cocaine were discovered hidden in Safadi's mouth. A gun was subsequently found on him. In court, the Crown argued that Berge had every right to detain and question Safadi because the officer had seen him without a seatbelt -- a violation of the traffic code.
Smith rejected the claim, pointing to Berge's own notes from the incident.
"Const. Berge made no note of the seatbelt until he stopped the car and looked around," she said. "This contradicted what he said at the preliminary (hearing)."
Neither the drugs nor the gun would have been found without the unlawful questioning of Safadi, Smith said. That action tainted all the evidence in the case, she said, before staying all charges against Safadi.
While everyone has a moral responsibility to assist the police, there is no legal obligation, Smith said Friday. Berge's questioning -- before reading Safadi his rights -- effectively forced the man to incriminate himself, she told the court.
"Mr. Safadi had a higher right to privacy as to the contents of his mouth," she said.
"The accused had a privacy right to things secured on or in his person."
The incident comes days after the federal government announced $2.2 million dollars to help police departments across the country grapple with issues surrounding racial profiling and bias in policing.
The Edmonton Police Service is not part of that federal partnership.
"Our legal advisers will need to take a look at the ruling before we can offer up any comment," Andy Weiler, an Edmonton police spokesman, said Friday.
EDMONTON (CP) - Police could have considered a middle-ground tactic before breaking into the residence of an armed and angry man to make an arrest, says a fatality inquiry judge.
The observation comes from provincial court Judge David J. Tilley, who declined to make any recommendations following his inquiry into the fatal police shooting of John Peter Pavic on May 15, 2001.
"It would seem rational for police in a scene involving a person locked in a building and refusing to come out . . . to consider some sort of middle ground . . . without moving directly to the break-enter scenario," he wrote in his nine-page inquiry report released Tuesday.
Tilley suggested that police might have tried to incapacitate Pavic with tear gas before attempting to smash their way into the 31-year-old unemployed man's apartment, but noted no evidence was brought to the inquiry held last September about the soundness of such a tactic.
Pavic, who had nearly four times the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, was shot four times by Const. Ken Brander after he attacked the police officer with a knife in a dark stairwell. Pavic died at the scene.
Brander had initially fired a Taser at Pavic to incapacitate him, but it didn't work.
Tilley said Brander held off Pavic's attack with a protective shield long enough to draw his weapon and fire off eight rounds in the dark. He kept firing until his pistol misfired.
"Mr. Pavic either underestimated the level of skill which the Edmonton Police Service tactical officers were prepared to employ, or he had some sort of death wish, or perhaps an unrealistic sense of his ability to threaten and physically overcome the tactical squad," Tilley wrote.
Tilley noted that Pavic had been involved in a similar incident involving Ontario Provincial Police in southwestern Ontario in 1992.
He said police were called to deal with Pavic after he caused a disturbance at his father's home. Officers found him in a chair armed with a number of knives, but he was too intoxicated to resist arrest.
OPP stated that Pavic planned to attack the police when they came to arrest him so that the officers would have to shoot him, Tilley noted in his report.
Tilley noted that on the night Pavic was shot in Edmonton, he initially called police to complain that he had been assaulted by a neighbour. However, when police arrived, he refused to give them any information.
Police received three subsequent 911 calls from neighbours complaining that Pavic was brandishing a knife and threatening to kill somebody.
"All Mr. Pavic had to do was calm down, speak to police and surrender to an arrest," Tilley noted. "That simple end was not to be."
The officer involved in the shooting has been involved in two other high-profile incidents - one involving a traffic death and the other two deaths in a drug raid.
Two days before shooting Pavic, Brander was at the wheel of a speeding unmarked police car that struck another car on a major Edmonton street. The collision sliced the small car in two and killed one young boy and maimed his brother.
Brander was found not guilty of criminal negligence or dangerous driving.
He also led a drug sweep five years ago in which two men fell to their deaths from a fourth-floor balcony after police fired stun grenades.
EDMONTON -- Officers fatally shot a man after he refused to drop a "machete-like" knife he was wielding, say police officials.
The man, identified by a relative as Daniel Lippa, died in hospital Friday night, a few hours after a confrontation outside an apartment building.
"It happens very, very quickly," said Chris McLeod of the Edmonton Police Service. "The man comes at them with a knife, raised up . . . making threats to the officers as he's nearing them. The officers are yelling at him to drop his knife, to stop. He doesn't. They quickly draw their weapons and fire."
A total of seven shots were fired: five by one officer and two by another. "Both officers believed that their lives were genuinely in danger," said McLeod, adding that a civilian who was on a ride-along confirmed the sequence of events.
However, members of Lippa's family questioned the actions of police. "What the police are saying about him attacking people or being violent or suicidal is a bunch of crap," said the slain man's father, Ernie Lippa, who is demanding a review of events leading up to the shooting.
Police had been called to the building by a neighbour who said a woman and her son were being threatened by the woman's ex-husband. The man was also reportedly making threats to harm himself, McLeod said.
Edmonton cops are furious after a human-rights report from the U.S. State Department took a swipe at them for alleged human-rights abuses. "It is a cheap shot" said Tony Simioni of the Edmonton Police Association.
"It's inaccurate and therefore unfair, and adds a stigma to the Edmonton Police Service."
The State Department released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2004 on Monday.
The report was compiled by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour and covered various countries. A section on Canada included a small paragraph on Edmonton.
"During the year, police in Edmonton were accused of using excessive force when responding to minor infractions in the city's tourist district," the report said.
"Among other incidents, police allegedly knocked a man to the ground for jaywalking; repeatedly kicked a person for swearing at officers; and repeatedly hit a handcuffed person in the face."
Edmonton Police Commission vice-chairman Murray Billett also blasted the State Department for taking a "cheap shot" at Edmonton cops.
"They should pay a little more attention to how their own urban police treat American citizens," he said. "Edmonton has one of the best police services in North America."
Simioni said he may drop the State Department a line expressing his dissatisfaction with the report.
The Edmonton Police Service media relations department wouldn't comment on the report - except to point out that the State Department had compiled longer and more specific comments on other countries, such as Colombia.
A man accusing a city police officer of beating him clammed up in the middle of his testimony yesterday, claiming he fears for his safety once the case concludes. "After this, what's going to happen to me?" Peter Van Eck asked the Law Enforcement Review Board panel.
"Am I going to be a sitting duck? I don't want to be nervous every time I see a squad car. Who's going to protect me?"
The LERB is hearing a complaint filed by the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association on behalf of Van Eck and Ed Mahar, vendors employed by Our Voice magazine.
A report published in Our Voice in September 2000 quoted Mahar and Van Eck claiming they'd been assaulted by downtown beat cops - Mahar allegedly once by Const. Grant Jongejan and Const. Rick Abbott, and Van Eck allegedly by Abbott on two occasions.
But Mahar was a no-show at yesterday's hearing. Van Eck testified Mahar urged him to skip the hearing as well.
"Mahar's scared ... and the theme seems to be he's worried about trouble with the police," said CTLA lawyer Tom Engel.
Van Eck's own testimony was riddled with inconsistencies and large memory gaps. At one point he misidentified Abbott and Jongejan, who were sitting in the courtroom.
Under questioning by EPS lawyer Darlene Savoie, Van Eck admitted he'd had "more than" 50 brushes with city cops, and that he has a drinking problem.
He said he'd been drinking the day in late summer 2000 when he alleges he was punched and kicked by Abbott outside a downtown pizza shop where he'd been scrounging for food.
"It was years ago," he said. "It's all very sketchy."
At one point, a visibly upset Van Eck seemed to be refusing to answer further questions from Engel.
"This stuff I'd like to put behind me," he said.
"Being on the street, (the police) figure they can do what they do ... there were no witnesses. Who's gonna stick their neck out for me?"
Both officers deny the assault claims, and insist they can't recall ever having met Van Eck.
Engel blamed Van Eck's memory lapses on the very long time it took for the case to reach an LERB hearing.
"It's a systemic problem," he said. "The LERB needs another 20 people to deal with their backlog, and all they can recommend is charges be laid by the chief - who'd already decided charges shouldn't be laid.
"It's like snakes and ladders."
The case was adjourned to allow the panel to rule on evidence. No date has been set for it to resume.
Acting police Chief Darryl Da Costa's is concerned about public perception in the wake of the Overtime probe but is trying to stay focused on day-to-day operations, say cops. "Acting Chief Da Costa's immediate priorities are the day-to-day operation of the police service and managing this sudden change," city police spokesman Annette Bidniak said yesterday. "The citizens of Edmonton need the police 24 hours a day, every day, and Acting Chief Da Costa is focusing on continuing to provide them the best service possible."
Da Costa's appointment as acting chief was announced Monday. That was the same day ex-Chief Fred Rayner told the Edmonton Police Commission he was taking an indefinite period of sick leave as more details of the Overtime Broiler and Taproom investigation came to light.
Last night Rayner's contract was terminated by the commission.
Bidniak said Da Costa is "naturally" concerned about the perception of the city police. But it "hasn't been discussed yet" what role, if any, Da Costa will play in addressing the Overtime case, as it continues to unfold.
"There's nothing more to say about the Overtime bar investigation,"she said.
"Much information is out there, but it's only part of the information and we're not in a position to release the rest. It has to come out through the process."
Edmonton Police Association Staff Sgt. Peter Ratcliff said the union supports Rayner.
"It's very, very unfortunate. I can't imagine the toll - the physical, mental toll - this has taken on him," said Ratcliff.
"He has our continued support. I hope and wish him well."
Ward 2 Coun. Ron Hayter called Da Costa a good police officer, but noted he's an interim chief.
"And an interim chief has limited authority," Hayter said. "He has not been selected by the commission as such, and so he's in an interim role, and when you're in an interim role, there's only so much you can do."
Rayner presented a report clearing seven officers of targeting the head of the Edmonton Police Commission, Martin Ignasiak, and Sun columnist Kerry Diotte in a drunk-driving sting operation. But, as a result of an investigation - conducted by the Calgary Police Service - into the case, two officers now face Police Act charges related to the November probe at the downtown Overtime Broiler and Tap Room, 10304 111 St.
Traffic supervisor Staff Sgt. Bill Newton is charged with discreditable conduct and insubordination regarding his handling of information that led to police interest in Diotte.
In his address last Thursday, Rayner said he "had followed all of the Calgary Police Service recommendations, with the exception of one where I did not agree with the level of discipline."
Several city councillors were briefed before Rayner made the comments publicly Thursday. And yesterday, two remembered Rayner telling them there was but one recommendation amended.
Larry Jackson, Public Complaints Monitor for the commission, yesterday read Rayner's briefing notes to the Sun.
There were in fact two recommendations amended.
"I have concluded that, with the exception of the following two recommendations, all of (Calgary) Deputy Chief (Murray) Stooke's recommendations will be followed," Rayner wrote.
"Deputy Chief Stooke recommended that a disciplinary hearing be ordered into the allegation of insubordination against Const. Elaine Jensen in relation to inappropriate use of police information systems. In contrast, Deputy Chief Stooke recommended that (three other officers) be issued an initial warning also relating to inappropriate use of (police information systems)."
Jensen ended up with an official warning.
"Deputy Chief Stooke recommended that in relation to Staff Sgt. (Bill) Newton," Rayner continued, "a disciplinary hearing should be proceeded with for unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority .... While I agree with Murray's recommendations in relation to a disciplinary hearing, the more appropriate service charge is discreditable conduct ...."
Newton was charged with discreditable conduct and insubordination regarding his handling of information about Diotte.
Rayner wrote that Jensen had a clean record with the force, Jackson said, and she was "confirming the credibility of an individual."
As for Newton, there was "no reason" indicated for the amendment, Jackson said. Nor did it say whose information Jensen was running through police computers.