Credibility of new Calgary police union president questioned after 2011 ruling
On the same day that the Calgary Police Association (CPA) introduced its new president, questions surfaced about Les Kaminski’s credibility in the wake of a 2011 ruling.
In that ruling, Judge Terry Semenuk acquitted Justin Arkinstall of uttering a threat to kill a police officer and rejected testimony provided by Kaminski as “unreliable.”
Semenuk wrote that Kaminski’s “lack of notes on material particulars, the variance in his viva voce evidence … and his being shaken on cross-examination by Defence Counsel, led me to conclude that he was not a credible or reliable witness.”
The ruling also includes evidence suggesting that Kaminski assaulted Arkinstall, who was wearing a Hells Angels T-shirt and pendant.
“The Accused told Kaminski he had enough, and that he was going to exit the vehicle. On opening the door, and raising his arms in submission, Kaminski grabbed the Accused by the arms and threw him like a rag-doll, face first, on to the hood of the Tahoe. While pulling his arms forcefully behind his back to handcuff him, the Accused complained about a shoulder injury and that he was in pain. Kaminski responded by striking the Accused forcefully with the baton twice on the back of his neck,” it read.
Lawyer Tom Engel told Global News that as chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Association policing committee, he advocated for criminal charges to be laid against Kaminski in relation to the Arkinstall case.
“When we see something like that happening, we do something about it if we know the authorities responsible for it are doing nothing,” Engel said.
Engel said he’s been told the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has concluded its investigation into Kaminski and the case is now in the hands of Crown prosecutors who will decide whether to lay charges.
“That usually frankly takes months,” he said.
“Then if they decide to lay criminal charges then the officer or officers will be prosecuted.”
Engel said if the Crown decides that there will be no criminal charges, then the file will go to Calgary Police Chief Roger Chaffin to decide whether disciplinary action should be taken.
WATCH: The president of the Calgary Police Association held a press conference Wednesday to voice concerns from union members. But as Kim Smith reports, his message could be overshadowed by his own controversy.
In a statement, ASIRT would not confirm any investigation into Kaminski. It said the organization’s practice “is to not publicly identify officers under investigation unless an officer has been charged with an offense [sic], in which case it is then a matter of public record.”
Calgary Police Commission Chair Brian Thiessen said in an email, “At this stage I understand ASIRT has reported to the Crown Prosecutor, but again, the CPC (Calgary Police Commission) is not provided with those details as we have no role in the Crown’s decision whether to elect to lay criminal charges.”
“So we are aware only that there is an ASIRT investigation, and do not yet have the results.”
In a news conference Wednesday, Les Kaminski acknowledged public concern over the 10 police-involved shootings in 2016.
“They have a right to ask questions — our officers are deeply affected by each of these tragic occurrences and we share those same concerns,” he said.
“The last thing we want is to be forced into a situation where we must use deadly force … we don’t want to travel down the same point as we did last year.”
He said the drug-fuelled crime wave Calgary is experiencing has pushed front-line officers “far too frequently to situations that force them to make life and death decisions” and expressed the desire of members to “address these issues at the root cause and suppress the most prolific criminals before they commit crimes.”
Kaminski pointed to the successes of downtown beat units and gang suppression units which helped reduced crime numbers.
He also addressed allegations of bullying and sexual harassment that have plagued the Calgary Police Service over the past year.
“Obviously the toxic workplace issue, we need to get a handle on that.”
“We have some unhappy police officers here in the police service, there’s no doubt – we would like to see the strategies put into place to take care of some of those issues.”
Kaminski has said he wants to make sure the CPA will be heard as it works to address the internal issues and challenges police officers are facing in the city.
Engel said as president of the CPA, Kaminski is in a conflict of interest.
“When (Kaminski) starts speaking about say ASIRT or police discipline issues or whether names of officers should be divulged when they’re charged, which I understand he opposes, he’s in a conflict of interest,” he said.
Calls to the CPA by Global News for a response were not immediately returned.
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