What is wrong with Alberta’s crown prosecution office?

The latest decision by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) to not prosecute the Lethbridge cops who spied on a sitting cabinet minister, despite the recommendation from ASIRT that the cops had committed a crime, lays bare a disturbing reality: there is one set of laws for cops and one set of laws for everybody else.

On May 15 news broke that Cst. Alex Doduk of the Edmonton Police Service would not be charged for shooting an unarmed man, Steven Nguyen, to death, despite the conclusion by ASIRT that Doduk had likely committed a crime. ACPS declined to prosecute. 

In March the crown declined to prosecute the RCMP officers who kidnapped and forcibly confined a non-verbal autistic teen in St. Albert. He was playing on a playground by himself. 

Just last year the crown prosecutor’s declined to press charges against former school resource officer Cst. Ben Todd after he soccer kicked a defenseless teenager in the head. 

ASIRT investigated an incident where an RCMP officer pointed a Taser at a civilian in the RCMP office in Elk point—and again recommended charges which ACPS declined to prosecute. 

In Lethbridge in 2018, witnesses saw a cop grab a person by the throat and punch them in the face, and even caught it all on video. ASIRT’s investigation found the assault to be unprovoked, and “not proportionate, necessary, or reasonable on the evidence they provided.” They found that the cop was “not truthful” and recommended charges. And yet again, the crown declined to prosecute.

ASIRT found there were reasonable grounds to believe a firearms offence may have been committed in 2018 when an RCMP officer fired seven rounds from his gun at a truck with three people inside it on O’Chiese First Nation. ACPS threw that one out too.

In another 2018 incident, an RCMP officer hauled off with an open-handed slap to the face of a man detained at the Strathcona County RCMP detachment. The victim was already in handcuffs. When ASIRT investigated they found the use of force “excessive” and recommended charges that ACPS, again, declined to prosecute. 

The chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers’ Association Policing Committee, Tom Engel, said in a release that the decision-making process on whether or not to prosecute police officers who have been found by ASIRT to have committed a crime “lacks competence, integrity, and transparency and therefore undermines public confidence and the integrity of the criminal justice system.”

“Time and time again, there have been decisions made by prosecutors with the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) that appear to be or are perverse, negligent, and/or biased in favour of the police. It is only made worse when the ACPS refuses to provide clear statements, explaining their reasoning and to disclose the names of the involved prosecutors. The public interest demands full transparency,” reads Engel’s statement. 

After the debacle involving the non-prosecution of Cst. Doduk in the homicide of Steven Nguyen justice minister Mickey Amery said he will review the relationship between Alberta’s police watchdog and the Crown.

That’s not good enough.

The recently updated Police Act also did nothing to correct this issue. If the CEO of the newly-created Police Review Commission believes a cop has committed a crime it still goes to a crown prosecutor office who never has to explain themselves.

The CTLA policing committee has proposed solutions to fix this that are incredibly reasonable. 

The executive director of the ASIRT and/or the CEO of the Police Review Commission should lay the charge directly. The province should create a pool of experienced and qualified prosecutors for these cases. If a prosecution is declined after a recommendation of charges the ASIRT/PRC should issue a clear statement explaining why.

Sounds good to me—but between an NDP that has no backbone to criticize the cops, and a UCP who seem to think the police aren’t brutal enough, who’s going to do it? 


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