Edmonton cop who spoke at Coutts rally reinstated with “lower end” punishment

An Edmonton cop who spoke at a Coutts area pro-border blockade rally and posted a tearful video on Instagram of her in uniform thanking Ottawa convoy protesters and saying she would refuse “unlawful orders” has been found guilty of discreditable conduct. She was reinstated with a reprimand that will stay on her record for five years.

Const. Elena Golysheva, a near-15-year Edmonton Police Service (EPS) veteran, told the crowd at a pro-convoy rally near Coutts on Feb. 12, 2022: "I'm here because you have given me so much strength." The border blockade ended a few days after Golysheva’s appearance at the rally when four of the people involved were charged by the RCMP with conspiring to kill police officers. At that point, Golysheva and another officer who spoke at the rally were suspended without pay

Screenshot of video posted by Cst. Elene Golysheva on Feb. 8, 2022. 

“Being suspended without pay is a much more serious consequence for her than anything else,” said Edmonton-based lawyer and legal commentator Ian Runkle. “The problem is that ultimately when we see what the punishment is, it’s often underwhelming. Most people don’t enjoy the sort of protection at their work that police officers do.” 

At a June 21 EPS disciplinary hearing, Golysheva pleaded guilty to discreditable conduct while two other Police Act misconduct charges were dropped. “The conduct was troubling,” said EPS legal counsel Deana MacFayden. Golysheva “cannot selectively apply the law according to her beliefs,” MacFayden added. 

According to MacFayden, Golysheva assured EPS police chief Dale McFee that she would uphold the law. 

An agreed statement of facts was not provided, and the lawyers and the presiding officer refused to provide any details about what was considered during the disciplinary hearing, but the EPS appeared to have only considered the video made by Golysheva and not her appearance at the illegal border blockade rally in this discipline hearing. 

“Her actions do not appear to be premeditated,” said MacFayden and that this occurred during the COVID pandemic which was “a stressful and polarizing time.” It’s roughly a six-hour drive from Edmonton to the Coutts border crossing. 

“The chief considers this a fair and just sanction,” said MacFayden. “The sanction does not impose any further financial sanction on the officer because she was suspended without pay for some time”

Presiding officer Fred Kamins, a retired RCMP chief superintendent, accepted the joint submission, but acknowledged the, “proposed sanction is … at the lower end of the scale.”

When asked if she believed it was an appropriate punishment Golysheva said, “No comments.”

“The simple fact is that she’s expected to be a police officer and regardless of whether you agree with the convoy or not, it’s inappropriate for a cop to record a video or go to a rally in support of any protest they might be dispatched to,” said Runkle. 

“But ultimately we don’t see the consequences that the public expects out of any of these disciplinary hearings so it’s very hard for the public to have much confidence in these things when they largely appear to happen for the benefit of the police rather than the public.”