It's been another week of controversy for the Edmonton Police Service. The disciplinary hearing for Staff Sgt. Bill Newton heard the officer justify his decision to run Sun columnist Kerry Diotte's name through the Canadian Police Information Centre database because he was unhappy with a column Diotte wrote in April 2004.
And it also came out that the tip that allegedly sparked the Overtime sting operation against Diotte and then-police commission chairman Martin Ignasiak actually came two hours after the stakeout began.
Acting police chief Darryl da Costa spent the week defending his decision to take hockey tickets from Affiliated Computer Services, the firm that's been the subject of a long RCMP investigation over whether EPS officers took unauthorized perks from the company that's providing Edmonton's photo-radar services.
Critics claim that da Costa's ticket freebie violates the police department's policy and say the acting chief should stand down from being in contention for the job of chief of police. Da Costa's supporters, who include heavyweights Mayor Stephen Mandel and Brian Gibson, chairman of the police commission, say it's much ado over nothing.
To us, the police policy is clear: gifts cannot be accepted without consent of the chief of police, and that these hockey tickets went beyond the exception provided in the department's policy manual for "normal exchange of hospitality."
But the most disturbing story of all was, unfortunately, the one that got the least amount of publicity: the decision of da Costa not to discipline Const. Mike Wasylyshen with regards to the Randy Fryingpan incident.
“tasered 6 times in 66 seconds”
In October 2002, the then-16-year-old Fryingpan was found sleeping in his car near Abbotsfield Road. Wasylyshen, responding to a noise complaint, repeatedly used his Taser to rouse the teen.
Earlier this year, Judge Jack Easton halted Fryingpan's trial for breaching his bail conditions after concluding the teen's charter rights had been repeatedly violated by Mike Wasylyshen. "The treatment of the accused by the application of the Taser and the use of the fist or butt end of the Taser gun to the body of the accused driving him to the ground causing a broken tooth clearly indicated to me an excessive use of force and a clear violation of the charter rights of this accused," the judge wrote.
The judge also wrote that, "The witnesses other than the officers appeared disgusted by an obvious overuse of force," and "The scene was clearly under control and the deployment of a Taser absolutely unnecessary."
But da Costa exonerated Mike Wasylyshen, saying, "We could not sustain any charges against any of our members as there was insufficient evidence to support the charges." We can only shake our heads and agree with Edmonton lawyer Tom Engel, who concluded, "This is just shameful."
Protesters gathered renewing calls for Edmonton police to fire Mike Wasylyshen, a cop with a criminal record for assault.
Mike Wasylyshen is the son of former police chief Bob Wasylyshen
Earlier this month, the Edmonton Police Service promoted Mike Wasylyshen to sergeant. He had previously pleaded guilty to two counts of assault for an unprovoked attack on a man using crutches in 2005. A "heavily-intoxicated" Wasylyshen, who wasn't on duty at the time, attacked the man while he was waiting for a cab. He was also disciplined for tasering a passed-out aboriginal teenager, Randy Fryingpan, 6 times in 66 seconds during an arrest in 2002 and was suspended 120 hours for using excessive force.
Chief Rod Knecht said Wasylyshen’s past was taken into consideration when the decision was made saying he has had an unblemished record since the conviction.
"Really, can we have faith and trust in the police when they promote people like that? We don't believe he should have been promoted, let alone still working as a police officer. He lowers the standards .. of integrity" said elder Taz Bouchier.
"Hasn't made proper amends for his past."
"I have no confidence that he is a changed man."
"Not a role model."
"I grew up here. I had a tremendous trust in the city police."
"If the city wants to send a message loud and clear about the police force, fire Mike."
source: cbc news
The acting police chief in Edmonton has dismissed all but one complaint against officers who used a Taser gun on a passed-out, drunken teen nearly three years ago.
Chief Darryl Da Costa said police concluded their internal investigation and charged one officer with insubordination. He said the officer received an official warning.
In 2002, complaints were filed accusing a constable of repeatedly firing a Taser at Randy Fryingpan while the 16-year-old was passed out drunk in the back of a friend's car.
A judge described the incident as cruel and unusual punishment and an abuse of the use of force.
But Da Costa said there was no evidence to support the allegations.
Racist e-mail draws warning
The Edmonton Chief said two police officers responsible for creating and distributing a racist e-mail have been given official warnings.
The racist e-mail listed 10 rules for policing the downtown division -- three of which were derogatory towards natives.
EDMONTON - The Edmonton police department will not investigate allegations of assault and arbitrary detention against two officers who repeatedly hit a drunk teen with a Taser in 2002.
The department says the Crown has already absolved them of guilt.
But the Crown's decision last month not to pursue criminal charges against the officers does not mean they should not be investigated under the police act, said Sanjeev Anand, a University of Alberta law professor.
"In my view, they should be investigating the assault incident," Anand said.
"The fact that the Crown said no there wasn't a reasonable prospect of conviction, doesn't mean the assault didn't happen."
Anand said he believes the decision not to pursue arbitrary detention charges is correct, since the Crown decided there were lawful grounds for an arrest.
In October 2002, Randy Fryingpan, then 16, was drunk and passed out in the back of a friend's car. When the officers, who were responding to a noise complaint, tried to wake him, he became belligerent, police said.
Const. Mike Wasylyshen, the son of then police chief Bob Wasylyshen, shocked Fryingpan six times in 66 seconds with a Taser. The youth also had a tooth knocked out by the butt of the Taser or a fist.
Despite pleas from Fryingpan's mother, police refused to conduct an outside investigation.
The case eventually was referred to the Calgary Crown's office, which waited until the end of Fryingpan's breach of probation trial before acting.
At that trial, Fryingpan's lawyer, Tom Engel, argued that the case should be thrown out because Fryingpan's charter rights had been violated.
In his decision, provincial court Judge Jack Easton wrote a scathing indictment of police actions that night.
He didn't agree that Fryingpan's refusal to get out of the car justified the police violence.
Easton also said the teen's charter rights were violated when they strip-searched him and the officer's actions amounted to "cruel and unusual treatment."
Despite the judge's harsh words, the Calgary Crown's office believed there was insufficient evidence to press criminal charges against the officers.
Following the decision, the police department resumed its internal investigation. In a fax sent to Engel on Tuesday, the department said Wasylyshen and Const. Alfred Normand would not face charges of assault and arbitrary detention because the Crown determined they were innocent.
Engel said the Crown did no such thing.
"It's a specious argument," Engel said. "They know very well that it's incorrect."
In criminal cases, the standard of proof is beyond reasonable doubt, which is difficult to establish. In cases involving the police act, the standard is the balance of probabilities, a much lower burden of proof.
To say the officers did nothing wrong based on the Crown's decision is ridiculous and shows why the police department should not be investigating its own misconduct, Engel said.
"These investigations by the EPS have historically biased and this is just another good example," Fryingpan's lawyer said.
Police spokesman Dean Parthenis refused to comment on the specifics of the case. He said the investigation of other allegations is ongoing and the decision whether to press charges under the police act would be made once the investigation was finished.
The family of a teen Tasered repeatedly by the cop son of ex-police chief Bob Wasylyshen say they are disgusted there will be no criminal prosecution - despite a judge labelling the incident "cruel and unusual."
Chief Crown prosecutor for Calgary Gordon Wong said yesterday that he and two of his colleagues believe Const. Mike Wasylyshen was justified in his use of a Taser on 16-year-old Randy Fryingpan in October 2002.
The decision angers Fryingpan's family.
"I am angry about what they have done to my son and nothing is going to happen to them," said Fryingpan's mother Marilyn. "He doesn't seem to have a life anymore and is scared to go outside. He is badly depressed."
Judge Jack Easton halted Fryingpan's prosecution for breaching bail in February this year after concluding Wasylyshen had unnecessarily used his Taser to wake the teen up after he was found sleeping in a car near Abbotsfield Road.
Easton, in issuing a judicial stay, accepted Fryingpan had been with three other youths drinking malt liquor and smoking marijuana, but the teen was passed out when Wasylyshen Tasered him. He said Wasylyshen Tasered the crying youth at least five times more as he hauled him from the vehicle. "That, in my conclusion, is abuse of force and cruel and unusual treatment," he said in his written judgment.
He rejected claims Fryingpan was fighting Wasylyshen.
But Wong said yesterday he and two other Calgary prosecutors have determined there was insufficient evidence against Wasylyshen.
"A judge, when considering a judicial stay based on a charter violation, only needs to be satisfied on a balance of probabilities," he explained.
"The Crown prosecutors who reviewed this file were not satisfied that they could prove beyond a reasonable doubt that excessive force was used."
He noted inconsistencies in witness statements and that Fryingpan himself had little recollection of the incident.
But the prosecutors said there was credible evidence that Wasylyshen was concerned about his safety and was involved in a struggle with Fryingpan.
Wong said his team has already recommended charges against three Edmonton-area police officers - two from the city and one from Morinville - for inappropriate use of a Taser. "We have no interest in protecting the police from charges where the facts warrant them," he said.
He had no concerns that the investigation had been conducted by city police themselves, not an outside body.
The Edmonton Police Service declined comment because the internal affairs investigation into the incident has been reactivated. The investigation was put on hold until the Crown prosecutors made their decision.
Vern Grainger, who took Fryingpan, now 19, to see a doctor, said he and the medic counted 21 Taser marks on the teen's body. "I don't think justice has been done so far and I don't think it will be," said Grainger.
The nightmares haven't ended for a 19-year-old who was accused of fighting arrest when, in fact, a judge found he was flailing helplessly from the effects of a "cruel" tasering by police. "I have dreams of getting beat up by cops. The more I have, the more I want to stay inside and away from cops," Randy Fryingpan said yesterday, crushed that the nightmares returned the night before, even after his vindication in provincial court.
"I feel a shock and then I wake up and my back hurts like crazy."
Back on Oct. 5, 2002, Fryingpan, then 16, was among a group of four youths drinking liquor and smoking marijuana in a parked car near a home on Abbottsfield Road.
Witnesses told court about six officers responded to a complaint by a neighbour and started to remove the youths from the car. Fryingpan was passed out in the back of the car.
Judge Jack Easton said Const. Mike Wasylyshen, son of the former chief of the Edmonton Police Service, used his Taser to rouse Fryingpan - not to subdue him. Wasylyshen then tasered the crying youth at least five more times as he was hauled out of the car and forced to the ground.
"That, in my conclusion, is abuse of use of force and cruel and unusual treatment," Easton wrote in his decision.
Claims by police Fryingpan was fighting back are untrue and "any resistance ... was as a result of the direct application of the Taser," said Easton.
Fryingpan wasn't in the courtroom to learn of the judge's ruling - he didn't believe the case would work out in his favour, but he and his mother hugged when she told him the news after she returned from the proceedings Friday afternoon.
"I was surprised because I won," said Fryingpan.
"Everybody told me (the police) have too much power. They always win."
Fryingpan said he has various nightmares about police several times a week, which he didn't have before that October morning.
In his nightmare Friday he dreamed he was walking by himself and then saw a friend in a grocery store being beat up by a police officer. Fryingpan said when he went into the store during the dream to help his friend, he felt a Taser shock in his back.
He then woke up.
Prior to the Taser incident, Fryingpan said he used to wave at police on the street, but that's changed.
He's now afraid of them.
"I don't want to be around them. I want to go home (when I see them)," said Fryingpan.
"Now I just put my face down. I have no respect for them."
Allegations of police brutality that gained international attention have been accepted as true by an Edmonton court. "The appropriate and only decision I can reach in this case is to grant a judicial stay," said provincial court Judge Jack Easton yesterday, halting the prosecution of a youth who was repeatedly tasered before his arrest by Edmonton police in October 2002.
"All we can say at this point is that our legal advisers are waiting for the decision so it can then be reviewed," Edmonton police spokesman Dean Parthenis said yesterday.
The charge of breaching bail conditions against Randy Fryingpan was actually true and is admitted, lawyer Tom Engel said yesterday. But the "torture" his client suffered in his arrest led to him asking for the charge to be thrown out.
Fryingpan, now 19, was among a group of four youths drinking malt liquor and smoking marijuana in a parked car near homes on Abbottsfield Road early on Oct. 5, 2002.
Witnesses told court that about six police officers responded to a complaint by a neighbour, and began removing the youths from the car.
Fryingpan, then 16, was passed out in the back of the car.
Judge Easton said Const. Mike Wasylyshen used his taser to rouse Fryingpan, not to subdue him. Wasylyshen then tasered the crying youth at least five more times as he was hauled out of the car and forced to the ground.
"That, in my conclusion, is abuse of use of force and cruel and unusual treatment," Easton said in a written decision.
Claims by police that Fryingpan was fighting back are untrue, the judge decided: "Any resistance, arm swinging or the like, was as a result of the direct application of the taser."
Fryingpan was not present in court yesterday because he didn't expect to win, said mom Marilyn.
"You don't win against the police. They have too much power," Marilyn said, adding she herself did not understand at first that the judge was staying the charges.
"I'm starting to believe it now," she said outside court.
The Fryingpan case was one of several cited in a nationally published story by The Canadian Press regarding controversial use of police tasers. It was also cited by Amnesty International in a report from London, England, calling for an end to use of tasers by police worldwide.
"They called it, the Fryingpan case, torture," said lawyer Engel.
This court ruling will be sent to Crown prosecutors with a request that someone review an earlier decision not to lay criminal charges against police, Engel said. Additionally, a demand for an internal investigation remains in the hands of Edmonton police, and a civil lawsuit has been filed, Engel added.
Fryingpan still suffers back pain, said mom Marilyn, and "he seems kind of slow now. He can't read or write as well as he used to."
Calgary's front-line police officers could soon be packing stun guns now that provincial policing funds are earmarked for the 50,000-volt weapons.
The Calgary Police Commission approved the allocation of nearly $5 million in spending March 22 -- including $480,000 for Tasers. The recommendation will go before the city's finance and corporate services committee Wednesday.
Advocates say Taser guns reduce the number of police shootings.
"Our members have wanted them for a long time," said Howard Burns, vice-president of administration for the Calgary Police Association. "It will provide a good middle ground."
But if there's provincial money to be spent, it should go toward hiring more police officers, he added.
"We'd sooner have seen increased personnel throughout the city. The best way to avoid use of force is to put more cops on the street."
Stephen Jenuth, president of the Alberta Civil Liberties Association, also thinks the money should be used to hire more police officers or on more training.
"That money could be better spent teaching police officers how to deal with mentally ill people," Jenuth said. "You could do a hell of a lot of training for $480,000."
An aggressive, mentally ill person is likely to become even more confrontational if threatened with a stun gun, he said.
"If you told them 'Settle down or you're going to be zapped,' they would think they were going to die. That would be 'Settle down or I'm going to kill you,' to them, and they would react accordingly."
The $900 hand-held weapons immobilize a person with an electrical discharge delivered by a metal dart that pierces the skin. The electrical pulse is fired through the wires, aimed at incapacitating the subject, but otherwise causing no lasting harm.
In Calgary, police officers are armed with pepper spray, batons and Glock semi-automatic pistols. Police in Lethbridge and Edmonton have the stun guns, as do RCMP officers in Canmore and Banff, and Alberta correction centre staff.
Critics want more research to determine how hazardous the weapons are to people.
At least six Canadians have died after being shocked by the stun guns, which give 50,000-volt shocks on contact for up to five seconds.
According to a report released Friday by Amnesty International, there have been 103 Taser-related deaths in Canada and the United States since June 2001.
Taser International, the manufacturer of the stun guns, has stated that most of the deaths were actually the result of drug overdoses, and of the 30,000 uses of Tasers by authorities, none have been cited as the direct cause of any deaths.
The Calgary Police Service approved use of the weapons, but has just a few stun guns which can be used only by members of the tactical unit.
Calgary police used the Taser for the first time one year ago. A 22-year-old suicidal man was shot with the Taser after an officer determined the suspect was a threat to himself and others.
The use of deadly force to stop a knife-wielding Calgary man in January became a public concern for some who thought a stun gun would have been a better option.
On Jan. 21, Const. Ian Vernon shot and killed a blood-soaked, knife-brandishing Harjinder Singh Cheema.
Cheema -- who had stabbed his estranged wife several times and left a gash in his mother-in-law's arm -- was killed outside his Queensland home after ignoring several demands by police to drop his knife. Family and Sikh community members said at the time Vernon should have used a Taser rather than deadly force.
The police commission has also earmarked the province's money for other capital funding options including $1.3 million for the HAWC1 aero centre, $1 million to boost bandwidth for laptops in police cars, and infrastructure improvements, paying the balance owing on the HAWC1 infra-red camera.
How It Works
- The Taser shoots two electrically loaded wires as far as 6.4 metres, sending a 50,000-volt jolt through the body.
- Someone hit with a Taser involuntarily contracts into a semi-fetal position; hands bunch into fists, knees buckle and the person drops to the ground, frozen in the same position until the current is cut.