Category Archives: ASIRT

Killer Cop Michelle Phillips Charged for Driving Over 41-Year-Old Man

It is among the rarest of a rarities. A police officer who kills a civilian actually being criminally charged with something. Anything. On Friday, June 16, 2017, killer cop Michelle Phillips, an RCMP constable in Alberta, was charged with one count of dangerous driving causing death and one count of dangerous driving causing bodily harm for driving over and killing a 41-year-old pedestrian who had been injured in a prior collision and striking and seriously injuring a 71-year-old man who was helping the injured man. The crash and killing occurred on August 21, 2016, on Highway 881 near Anzac, Alberta, 420 kilometers north of Edmonton.

The charges were announced by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the agency that investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province. The ASIRT release described officer Phillips’ actions as follows:

 

“While responding at an extremely high rate of speed, the officer came upon a number of vehicles stopped on one side of the highway with their lights on and proceeded to drive past these vehicles without slowing. Unfortunately, this location was where the pedestrian had been originally struck and the officer ran over the injured pedestrian prone on the roadway with the police vehicle, killing him, and striking the hand of a 71-year-old man who had been rendering aid to the pedestrian, causing serious injury.”

 

An internal RCMP code of conduct review is underway and the officer, who had one year of service at the time of the deadly crash, has been suspended with pay. Phillips has been released on a promise to appear. She is set to appear in Fort McMurray provincial court on August 2, 2017.

This decision is, as all such decisions are, surprising given the state’s preference for protecting police. Of course this does not mean a conviction will result. ASIRT has been criticized recently for practices that appear to favor killer cops.


Thirty-Two-Year-Old Man Dies in Alberta RCMP Custody (May 13, 2017)

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that investigates case of police harm to civilians in the province, is examining the death of an as yet unnamed 32-year-old man in RCMP custody on Saturday, May 13, 2017.  The man was in custody at the Fort McMurray RCMP detachment for supposedly drug-related offenses. Unverified police claims state that the man asked to make a phone call at about 2:45 AM Saturday morning. Four minutes after he was moved to a secure room to make the call, RCMP claim they entered the room to find the man on the floor in some medical distress. He was supposedly treated by paramedics at the scene but died two hours later in hospital. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed.


ASIRT Again Clears Cops Despite Finding “Procedural Errors” Led to Prisoner’s Death

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) the provincial body that investigates incidents of police harm to civilians in the province, is quickly developing a reputation for letting cops off on flimsy grounds when they are involved in civilian deaths.

On Friday, April 21, 2017 ASIRT announced that no officers from the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service (TNPS) would be charged after a 25-year-old man in police custody apparently killed himself. This despite the fact that the ASIRT investigation found that the force did not follow the “specific protocols [which] were in place” for times when the man, who was known by police, was taken into police custody. According to the ASIRT ruling said “procedural errors” were made and the man was left unsupervised, which protocol said he should not have been “resulting in a sufficient amount of time to commit suicide” (ASIRT).

The man had been arrested on February 17, 2015, supposedly for intoxication and a complaint about his presence at a residence. So once again police were called to address a health care issue and the result is a civilian death.

ASIRT, which has an apparent habit of offering bogus excuses for officers and forces involved in civilian deaths, such as the dubious “excited delirium” claim, this time went one better. Their report attributed the man’s death to the vague and rather unscientific explanation of a “perfect storm” resulting in the man’s death. Surely this is clearly an ideological or copaganda mystification that excuses the officers involved for their own active choices and actions, the committing of procedural errors, and the role those played in contributing to the death. Yet the “perfect storm” means even a consideration of something like negligence is nullified. To the benefit of the police officers responsible.

ASIRT said in a statement that: “This case, however, should remind officers of the duty of care they undertake when exercising custody or control of another person” (ASIRT). Yet there is no mechanism to go beyond the occasional reminder when the investigative body keeps providing excuses to get cops off when civilians die in their custody.

Similarly,  in a statement, Chief Keith Blake of the TNPS said: “The Tsuut’ina Police remain absolutely committed to the highest levels of care for those persons in our care and custody” (Statement). Yet this case shows the lack of commitment to even basic standards of their own protocol. So one might well ask what it is they remain committed too.

 


Bogus “Excited Delirium” Excuse Gets Killer Cops Off for 2015 Alberta Death

The finding of “excited delirium,” which makes its primary appearance in medical contexts usually only ever as justification for police killings of civilians, is an ideological tool used to excuse lethal police force. It has been used by police forces as a way to simultaneously blame victims for their own killings and give killer cops an answer where no real answer exists.

This dubious piece of copaganda has been offered up once again in Alberta to excuse Edmonton Police Service officers who killed a 25-year-old man on April 29, 2015. This despite well established debunking of the notion of excited delirium. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) offered the excited delirium defense in findings released on April 18, 2017, two years after the young victim died after being subjected to force by multiple officers while in police custody.

Sadly, the victim was targeted by police for the trivial act of supposedly trespassing in the City Centre Mall after nervous security staff called them. The security staff had tweaked to him because they suspected him of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. So an effort at moral regulation by private security ultimately resulted in a young man having his life taken by police. The ASIRT report added to the moral regulatory approach by suggesting the man had been uncooperative with police, saying he refused to follow directions.

For many police officers refusing to follow directions is an invitation to a beating or worse an extrajudicial execution. In this case ASIRT reports that at least four officers used force on the man supposedly to get him into restraints. After being violently removed from the mall and taken into Downtown Division the man was placed on the floor in the detention area. At this point Edmonton Police Services officers noticed he was unconscious, and in medical distress. Paramedics took the man to hospital but he could not be stabilized and was declared dead there.

Notably, the ASIRT reports makes clear that the man was acting in a way that suggested both to private security and police that his issue was health related not criminal. According to the ASIRT release the man “exhibited bizarre behaviour” (ASIRT). The report continues: “He was observed twisting and attempting to pull away. He was observed to be breathing heavily, mumbling and yelling, mostly incoherently” (ASIRT). Yet the intervention was, once again, repressive violence and thuggish force rather than health care.

This is a case in which private security and police intervene against someone who is, at most, dealing with substance abuse issues. Police should not be intervening in this situation. Yet they do so with force. And when force becomes lethal they turn to “excited delirium” in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. And it routinely gets them off. And mainstream media repeat the claim uncritically.

 


ASIRT Stats Show Large Increases in Police Violence, Lethal Force in Alberta

Statistics released by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) show a troubling steady increase in major police-involved incidents of violence, including police killings of civilians over the last decade.

In 2008, the year ASIRT began operations there were 10 cases of police violence that resulted in death or serious injury. In 2016, there were 42 such incidents. These include a range of police actions: police shootings, vehicle pursuits and collisions, use-of-force incidents with no weapon, and injuries caused by use of tasers and police dogs. The ASIRT statistics show nine police shootings that caused death or serious injury in 2013, 10 in 2014, 13 in 2015, and nine in 2016.

As of mid-April, 2017 there are nine police-involved incidents of death or serious injury under investigation in the province; three in Edmonton, three in Calgary, and three in RCMP jurisdictions. Of the three fatalities, one was in Edmonton, involving the Edmonton police department and the other two were RCMP cases. Edmonton has had three police shootings of civilians in March 2017 alone. One was the fatal police shooting of Vitaly Savin, a 55-year-old construction worker with no criminal record, who was targeted by police simply for supposedly driving erratically.

 

Police Incidents Involving Death or Serious Injury (By Year)

Year       Incidents

2008       10

2009       20

2010       18

2011       25

2012       18

2013       27

2014       31

2015       48

2016       42

 

Calgary police had a brutal year in 2016. The Calgary Police Services were responsible for a total of 10 police shootings that year. This stands as the highest total of police shootings of any city in the country. Five of the shootings were fatal and two caused injury. To his discredit the Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin has threatened retribution against whistleblowers in the department who speak to media and has blamed the police violence on a drug panic of his own creation.

Edmonton’s Acting Chief Kevin Brezinski has tried to blame a vaguely constructed “organized crime” and strangely a supposed increase in home invasions. It is not clear how this would have anything to do with his force’s killing of Vitaly Savin for supposed erratic driving.


Anthony Heffernan’s Family Files Lawsuit against Killer Cop McLoughlin and Calgary Police Service

As has been documented numerous times on this site the families of people killed by police in Canada are routinely denied even basic information about the police actions in which their loved ones were killed. This includes information about the officers directly responsible for the killings. The situation is not addressed through provincial investigation units since killer cops are not required to provide statements to such units and, of course, typically choose not to.  Thus families are left with no recourse but to file lawsuits against killer cops and the forces that protect them in order to gain even basic insights into the events that took their loved ones’ lives.

The family of Anthony Heffernan, killed by a multiple killer cop two years ago, has had to take the route of a lawsuit against the Calgary Police Service (CPS) in an attempt to find answers that have so far been denied to them. They also hope the lawsuit will result in changes to the department and prevent similar killings. The lawsuit is seeking $225,000 to cover the cost of Anthony Heffernan’s funeral, lost wages, and grief counseling required by the family. In August of 2016, the Heffernan family found out that the officer who killed Anthony would not face any charges. A statement of claim in the lawsuit argues there “was an excessive and unlawful use of force” in Anthony Heffernan’s killing. In the lawsuit the family also claim that some or all of the service members involved in the incident created notes and reports that were “false, misleading, containing omissions or exaggerations” (quoted in Potkin 2017). The family is also appealing the decision not to bring charges.

Anthony Heffernan was tasered and shot four times and killed by an officer after police broke into the hotel room in which the young man was staying in the city’s northeast in March 2015. All of this happened within 72 seconds of police entering the room (Potkins 2017). He was alone in the room and posed no threat to anyone outside the room, certainly he posed no threat to the public. He did not leave the room and posed no threat officers or anyone else in the hallway. The officer who killed Anthony Heffernan was not suspended and killed another man while on duty only a few months after the Heffernan killing.

Grant Heffernan, Anthony’s brother, explains the lawsuit as follows: “The point is we want is police accountability for their actions. It’s not about the money. It’s about hopefully going to trial and getting unanswered questions that we’ve had from the beginning” (quoted in CTV 2017).

The defendants listed in the lawsuit include former interim police chief Paul Cook along with five CPS members. Four of the officers are identified as John Doe while one officer is identified as Constable McLoughlin (no first name), said to be the killer cop. Patrick Heffernan, Anthony’s father, notes that police have never identified who the five officers at and the family only learned the surname of the killer cop McLoughlin through ASIRT (Potkin 2017).

In yet another of the numerous cases in which the courts protect killer cops, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) ruled that there was potential for charges in the killing of Anthony Heffernan only to see prosecutors not bring charges because they were of the view that there was  “no reasonable likelihood of conviction” (Potkins 2017). ASIRT concluded that Heffernan had his hands in the air at the time police shot and killed him.

The Heffernan family notes, with disappointment, that while the ASIRT investigation included statements from four of the officers in the room when Anthony was killed it did not include statements from the officer who killed their loved one. While they, like other family members of victims of police killings, cannot believe this was not part of the investigation it is, in fact a protection all killer cops enjoy.

The family hopes that the civil suit will finally ensure that the officer provides a first-hand account of why he shot Anthony multiple times.

 

Further Reading

CTV. 2017. “The Family of a Man Shot and Killed by Police is Suing Calgary Police” CTV News Calgary. April 11. http://calgary.ctvnews.ca/the-family-of-a-man-shot-and-killed-by-police-is-suing-calgary-police-1.3364792

Potkin, Meghan. 2017. “Anthony Heffernan’s Family Suing Calgary Police.” Calgary Herald. April 10. http://calgaryherald.com/news/local-news/heffernan-family-suing-calgary-police-for-more-than-40000-after-fatal-shooting


Vitaly Savin (55) Identified as Victim of Edmonton Police Shooting on March 9, 2017

Vitaly Savin (55) has been identified as the person shot and killed by an Edmonton police officer on March 9, 2017. Savin, a construction worker with an Edmonton home construction company was killed by an unnamed six-year veteran of the force during a traffic stop in southwest Edmonton on March 9, 2017.

Savin’s social media sites show that he worked as a mining engineer in Russia before moving to Edmonton. He had worked as a drill operator with construction company Great Canadian for eight years. Savin had made a post in support of a Russian team in a Europa League game only a half hour before he was killed (CBC News 2017).

A witness to the killing reported hearing the officer fire four shots at the time Savin was killed (Lepage 2017). An autopsy was scheduled for Friday, March 10, 2017.

 

Further Reading

CBC News. 2017. “Edmonton Man Fatally Shot by Police Identified as Construction Worker.” CBC News. March 10. http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/police-involved-shooting-victim-identity-1.4020052

Lepage, Michelle. 2017. “Hunting Knife Found Near Body of Man Shot Dead by Police.” Postmedia. March 10. http://cnews.canoe.com/CNEWS/Canada/2017/03/10/22709725.html