Edmonton’s police chief blames victim of alleged police brutality by constable—and it’s not the first time

Chief Dale McFee of the Edmonton Police Service blamed the victims of Cst. Alex Doduk in two recent civil trials where Doduk was charged with assault with a weapon and where he shot someone to death. Cst. Doduk is currently on paid leave for an unrelated matter which has not been disclosed. 

Cst. Doduk has been the subject of multiple misconduct investigations over the past several years but has not faced any consequences for his actions—both due to McFee’s inaction and thanks to letters of defense from Chief Dale McFee.

In 2021 Cst. Doduk shot Steven Nguyen to death after a weapons complaint was phoned into police. Nguyen had a phone in his hand when he was killed, and was going through a mental health crisis at the time, according to his family. The very first communication between Chief Dale McFee and the family of Steven Nguyen was a statement of defense where McFee said that any injuries, losses or damages suffered by the family were caused entirely or contributed to by the intentional or negligent actions or omissions of Steven Nguyen. 

Nguyen should have known the phone in his hand “could reasonably be mistaken for a firearm,” McFee’s claim says. The ASIRT investigation into the homicide of Nguyen is ongoing. 

In 2020 Cst. Doduk was again in the public eye after he posed in a photo that was posted to Instagram of him next to a newly arrested man with a derisive caption about his drug use. The internal investigation into Doduk's conduct (and that of the other officer involved) recommended no punishment, instead sending the two officers to training in “ethics and accountability, bias awareness and risk effective decision making.” 

In 2019 Cst. Doduk arrested Justin LaFrance for assaulting a police officer and in the process injured LaFrance with his baton. That charge was later dropped and in 2023, after an ASIRT investigation, Doduk was the one who was charged with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm. LaFrance, filed a civil lawsuit against Doduk and Chief McFee alleging that he was assaulted by Doduk after flagging him down to alert him to a person breaking windows near his jobsite.

Photos of Justin LaFrance after his encounter with Cst. Alex Doduk. Photos via Justin LaFrance.

McFee’s statement of defense in this case again placed the blame for LaFrance's injuries on the victim himself. “If the Plaintiff did sustain the injuries, losses and damages alleged, such injuries, losses and damages were caused entirely or contributed to by the intentional or negligent actions or omissions of the Plaintiff, the particulars of which include refusing or failing to follow the lawful and reasonable directions of the EPS Members, resisting lawful arrest, and other actions or omissions as may be proven at trial," wrote McFee.

That second civil lawsuit against Cst. Doduk is also ongoing.

Ian Runkle, a criminal defence lawyer in Edmonton, says that the Edmonton Police Service takes a litigation posture on everything, “which is super unsatisfying. You hope to see them step up.”

“These statements of defense always read like the narcissist’s prayer. It didn’t happen, if it did it wasn’t that bad, if it was bad it wasn’t my fault, if it was I didn’t mean it, if I did you deserved it. It’s not so much a McFee problem as it is a legal system problem,” said Runkle. 

“The real question is when you have cops who have multiple misconduct files, what do you do with them? They’re so hard to fire. This is what has to change. If I was the cause of my employer getting sued more than once I’d no longer be employed.” 

Dan Jones, a 25 year veteran of the EPS who also worked in the Professional Standards Branch, the division that investigates complaints against cops, says that these letters from the Chief aren’t good for the public or for the police. 

“One of the things I learned in PSB is that the vast majority of our members are doing our best. Only a handful are making these stupid mistakes and there is a small percentage that shouldn’t be on the job and those ones make it harder for everyone. It’s unfortunate. It creates this negative spin on policing,” Jones told the Report. 

Jones says that there is an expectation of public transparency and public accountability when it comes to police misconduct but civil litigation is not the best place to find it. 

“It almost looked like the same statement of defense. Does the chief even see those? He has a lawyer in Geoff Crowe who likely wrote them. Probably they don’t think that a civil document like that is ever going to get out in public, not thinking about the impact on the public or the victim,” said Jones. 

Jones believes the police can do better in the cases where an officer has killed a citizen.

“I worked with victims of homicide for a long time, the emotional impact on that family is so hard and for the Nguyen family to have the statement of defense as the first communication that’s unfortunate. I feel for them, I feel for their loss. You hope that you can communicate in ways that are not so cruel and not based on the litigious nature of civil law.”