The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team is investigating the death of a 55-year-old woman in custody of the Edmonton police over the long weekend between August 6 and 7, 2017. The circumstances leading to the death were initiated in as little as a call about intoxication at a transit station. Why people call police over such things might be asked. On Sunday, August 6, police responded to the Belvedere LRT Station and “dealt with” three people who were allegedly intoxicated. A 55-year-old woman was arrested and taken into custody, being placed in a holding cell with other people at city police headquarters. She had initially been taken to the northeast division facility before being taken to police headquarters, but no explanation has been provided for why that move was made. Around 10 AM the next morning the woman was found unresponsive and in medical distress on the floor of the cell. ASIRT has reported that there were “no obvious signs of significant trauma or injury.” The woman was transported to hospital in critical condition by EMS crews and died there later that evening.
Tag Archives: Edmonton
A police chase in Edmonton has left one man dead and a woman in hospital with life-threatening injuries. after a stolen truck involved in a police chase collided head-on with a car Monday evening. The pursuit started at around 8 PM on the evening of Monday, July 3, 2017 near 170th Street and 87th Avenue. Police apparently pursued the vehicle, a truck, west out of the city in the Winterburn Road area of the city. The truck is said to have collided head-on with a car on the exit ramp from Anthony Henday Drive southbound leading to Whitemud Drive westbound. The man driving the car died at the scene. A female passenger in the car was taken to hospital and suffers life-threatening injuries. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, which investigates cases of police harm to civilians in the province, is investigating.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) mirrors other police oversight bodies in Canada in routinely and regularly letting police officers off the hook when they kill civilians. It is rare that they find against officers and rare that they recommend charges befitting the actions of officers. On June 13, 2017 ASIRT announced that they will not recommend charges against Edmonton police officers in the death of a 46-year-old man who died during a rough ride in a police van.
The incident followed the man’s arrest on October 25, 2015. Incredibly, the man had been jumped and held for police by members of the public who believed he had damaged cars in the area in north Edmonton. The man was initially taken to hospital but then released back into police custody. The following day the man was denied bail and was to be returned to the remand centre. Police put him on his back in the prisoner transport van with his legs elevated. Only a few blocks later, Edmonton police officers found the man unresponsive and not breathing.An autopsy later determined that the man died as a result of cardiac arrest.
Toxicology results found there to be no alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription medications in his bloodstream denying police some version of the “excited delirium” excuse. It turns out they did not need it.
According to ASIRT, the officers were performing the lawful execution of their duties. This should be a reminder that for police lawful execution of their duties includes lawful execution of civilians.
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.
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.
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)
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.
This project has been primarily focused on formal, state, policing agencies and officers and their killings of civilians. Yet more and more policing is carried out by private forces, especially security guard services. And like the state policing forces their members kill. Yet private security is largely unregulated in Canada and have much leeway to act in unaccountable and largely unreported ways.
An Edmonton security guard, Sheldon Russell Bentley (35) is currently seeking bail after being charged with manslaughter and robbery for kicking an Edmonton man, Donald Doucette (51), to death and then robbing him.. Doucette, a culinary chef, was found in an alley next to the Lucky 97 grocery store in the afternoon of July 31, 2016. An autopsy showed Doucette died of blunt abdominal trauma.
Doucette had apparently passed out in the alley in before being approached by two security guards, one of whom was Sheldon Bentley. The charges claim Bentley kicked the passed out victim and stole $20 from him. The guards then simply went back to work.
Doucette’s has been struggling with alcohol for some time, a problem that family members say began in response to the death of his own father. He had been going to Alcoholics Anonymous as well as starting a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program. In addition Doucette struggled with epilepsy. His family often worried that that he would fall down and have a seizure in a non-supportive environment.
Security guards exist only to protect private property and profits. They have no special mandate to act in public space.
As a range of private security forces take over urban space (from security guards to business association “ambassadors”) more attention must be given to them. And their actions must be increasingly observed and challenged. Some have taken to Cop Watch like counter-patrols of security guards and private security.