*EDITOR’S NOTE: On June 29, 2018, the charges of two counts of theft under $5,000 were withdrawn, a guilty plea was entered in the two counts of breach of trust, another theft under $5,000 charge and breach of trust charge were also withdrawn. David Ahlstrom was sentenced to 18 months probation and a $200 fine.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) determined there was reasonable grounds to charge an Edmonton police officer with three counts of theft.
ASIRT started investigating after the Edmonton Police Service “identified concerns surrounding an incident involving an EPS officer and made a notification to the director of Law Enforcement that a possible theft might have occurred,” ASIRT said in a news release Thursday.
On Aug. 2, Const. David Ahlstrom, a member of EPS, was arrested and charged with three counts of theft under $5,000, relating to the theft of property including cash, prepaid credit cards, and cigarettes. He was also charged with three counts of breach of trust by a public officer.
Watch below: An Edmonton police officer has been suspended from work after criminal charges were laid. This comes after a nearly year-long investigation by Alberta’s police watchdog. Julia Wong reports.
ASIRT executive director Susan D. Hughson said the charges relate to three separate incidents that took place on Oct. 4, 2016; May 10, 2017 and Aug. 2, 2017.
Hughson said the alleged criminal offences happened “while the officer was on duty and acting in a capacity of a police officer.”
One incident involved “access to a residence,” Hughson said.
Watch below: ASIRT said an Edmonton police constable charged with theft was unaware of the investigation until he was arrested on Wednesday night.
She said the 40-year-old constable was arrested Wednesday night by ASIRT officers.
The EPS said Ahlstrom has eight years of service and has been suspended without pay pending the conclusion of the criminal proceedings. He was relieved from duty Wednesday night following his arrest.
Ahlstrom has been released on a promise to appear in Edmonton Provincial Court on Wednesday, Sept. 13.
Hughson said the situation was “disheartening” but should also show Edmontonians that the system of checks and balances is working.
“This arrest will undoubtedly impact public trust,” she said, but added, “this investigation was possible because the Edmonton Police Service triggered this investigation.”
“The system is working the way it should.”
Hughson said people need to be able to trust police officers and this type of investigation allows the law enforcement watchdog to look into those types of allegations.
“There’s good and bad in every profession. This arrest is not reflective of the overwhelming majority of good and honourable police officers who are doing their job right now,” she said. “It’s not a reflection of a systemic problem.”
Watch below: Theft investigation involving Edmonton police officer ‘critical’ to public trust
The EPS said, when the alleged incident first came to light in October 2016, it took the matter very seriously.
“When you look at the way we perform day to day throughout our organization in the community, this is a very rare occurrence,” Acting Deputy Chief David Veitch said. “This isn’t a reflection of the way we go about our business, which is why we took the action we did initially, which was remove him from operational duties.”
The force said it contacted the director of Law Enforcement immediately and ASIRT was called in. The EPS fully cooperated with ASIRT throughout the investigation, the force said in a news release.
“We have no tolerance for behaviours that diminish or destroy the trust citizens have in our officers,” Veitch said. “The alleged action of one member is not a reflection of the dedicated men and women who serve our community.”
“Citizens and the Edmonton Police Service expect our officers to be principled, upstanding and to act with integrity,” Veitch said.
ASIRT is brought in to investigate any time an incident involving Alberta’s police results in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.
Watch below: On July 31, Edmonton police chief speaks about trust between public and officers
Earlier this week, while sitting down with members of the media, Edmonton Police Chief Rod Knecht touched on the community confidence in the members of the EPS.
He said that when he started in the chief position six years ago, professional standards discipline meetings were “very unpleasant” and the worst part of his job.
“It was assaults – police officers assaulting – bad behaviour, deceit was predominant. Those meetings were three or four hours long and you walked out of there very depressed.”
Now, Knecht said, those meetings are far less frequent and last between 10 and 20 minutes at the most. They are of a “much less serious nature,” he added.
“When our people are seeing bad behaviour by other police officers, they’re actually coming forward,” he said. “So we’re policing ourselves.”
He said that in the six years he’s been chief, a lot of the bad apples have been weeded out and he’s seen a positive change within the organization, with more police officers who are extremely community minded and want to make the city a better, safer place. However, he added that it only takes one incident to challenge the trust between the police and the public.
“Those incidents are going to happen,” Knecht said on Monday. “We’re in the business where bad things happen and bad things are going to happen.
“We sort of have to continue to make that public deposit in the good will bank, build up that public trust, so when we do make a mistake – or some of our people betray that public trust – that it’s not fatal and it’s not long-term, that people collectively trust this police service.”
Knecht flat out admitted that “we do have some bad employees.”
“We have people that shouldn’t wear the uniform and we do our best to help them along so they can pursue other opportunities outside the police service.”
— With files from Caley Ramsay