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Edmonton police chief discusses use of force by officers

McFee talks about Edmonton police officers’ use of force
WATCH ABOVE: Edmonton's police chief says while there is work to do when it comes to officers using excessive force, he believes such cases are rare. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports. WARNING: This story contains graphic content.

Chief Dale McFee says the number of officers using unnecessary force on the Edmonton Police Service is “few and far between.”

In a year-end interview with Global News, McFee said the service does have work to do but that excessive force is not out of control in Edmonton.

His comment came as the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team released information Wednesday about an investigation into EPS use of force causing injury.

Justin LaFrance spoke with Global News in early December.

On Nov. 26, he was in the area of 97 Street and 103A Avenue.

ASIRT said the 38-year-old was being arrested for assaulting a peace officer when he resisted arrest.

The oversight agency found the officer used a baton on LaFrance, leaving him with a broken nose, bruising to his face, ribs and left shoulder.

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The incident is still under investigation.

In June, video surfaced of police arresting Kyle Parkhurst.

The video shows officers boxing in a truck, then six officers surrounding Parkhurst.

READ MORE: Edmonton police takedown raises questions about actions of officers

An officer can be seen kicking someone on the ground and pushing the man head first into the concrete wall of a building.

Parkhurst appeared in court Thursday where Crown prosecutors said police used “unnecessary force.”

The officer’s actions in that case ARE still being investigated.

“My job is to hold my members accountable when they step over the line, but you need to understand that’s still way, way the minority,” McFee said.

“There’s 1,850, roughly, officers here and the number of complaints we get versus the context isn’t a lot.

“But absolutely, we need to make sure that we’re accountable and transparent in how we deal with that. But let’s not think for any reason that it’s out of control.”

Lawyer Tom Engel has seen change when it comes to complaints against police.

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“I’ve noticed that the frequency of excessive force complaints have probably reduced considerably. And I’m just saying that anecdotally because we handle most of them probably and I don’t think that we have seen as many come in,” Engel said.

READ MORE: ‘We’ll be OK’: Edmonton police chief talks tough budget, technology and edibles in year-end interview

Engel does believe more needs to be done. He would like to see cruisers outfitted with video and audio recorders to deter bad behaviour.

“All you have to do is look at the Parkhurst case which had a sergeant there,” he said.

“That indicates a systemic issue. If there’s a sergeant there and the sergeant doesn’t stop it, that indicates a systemic issue.”

Chief McFee wants to see officers hold one another accountable when it comes to use of force.

“Having served as a police officer, a lot of the people are going into these situations that are highly-charged, volatile and I think as a group, we need to look after each other,” he said.

“If somebody has been chasing somebody for a long period of time, or whatever the incident is, and there’s many different things, if that person is amped up, then we need to make sure that somebody there is amping him down — or her down.”

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EPS does have an accountability system which McFee says is strong. He said it is not something that’s going to undergo changes moving forward, but that could be enhanced.