Global News has obtained a letter the president of the Edmonton Police Association sent to its members that raises concerns about the “current climate” of police in the city.
The letter specifically addresses the decision to suspend an Edmonton police officer without pay after he was charged with assault earlier this week.
The incident in question happened in August 2019. In the video, a police officer can be seen holding someone to the ground when a second officer comes into view and appears to hit the man. The man screams in pain as the officers are then both kneeled down over him. It is not clear if they are kneeling on him.
The Edmonton Professional Standards Branch looked into the arrest and found the level of force described in the police report was not consistent with what they saw in the video, which was obtained by police two days after the arrest.
Const. Michael Partington has been charged with one count of assault and been suspended without pay, the EPS announced on Tuesday.
Earlier this week, criminal trial lawyer Tom Engel said he agreed with the decision to suspend the officer without pay. He said it sets a precedent.
“That should send a signal to other officers, that if you do something like this, don’t expect to get a two-year paid vacation, you’re going to suspended without pay,” Engel said Tuesday.
The EPA letter sent to its members says the association doesn’t support the decision to suspend the member without pay.
“The association is fearful this is pandering to the current climate and this is not in the best interests of the service, and especially the affected member,” read the letter, which was penned by EPA president Michael Elliott.
“We all understand we need to be investigated when a complaint is submitted. We also understand we will be held accountable for our actions if the conduct is proven in court or at a hearing. However, to suspend a member without pay without a finding of guilt is incorrect — full stop.
“In our view, our member was in the execution of his duty and there has been no information provided to illustrate the actions were a gross disregard or neglect. Yes, the video does raise questions, however, we as police officers are supposed to collect all evidence and information before making a conclusion.
“There have been many other members who have been in similar circumstance and have not been suspended without pay. They have either remained in their current roles, been moved to an administrative role or suspended with pay.”
Criminal lawyer Richard Mirasty said the letter reminds him of the “old ways” where police were fearful of being held accountable.
“It seems as if they are avoiding responsibility, shirking responsibility,” Mirasty said. “They want to be… transparent and then when something like this happens, it’s quite obvious… the officer drops his knee… on his back, and it took 10 months for this person to be charged.
“I couldn’t do that and get away with it for 10 months, so I don’t know who is pandering to who.
“The public sees a real desire to change and hold the police more accountable, and this letter takes away from that initiative.”
The EPA letter says the association will address how the current climate, which has seen calls to defund police and deal with racism, is affecting police.
Previous Global News stories show there have been several incidents where Edmonton police officers were suspended without pay in the past. In May 2019, an EPS officer was suspended without pay while being investigated for sexual assault. The officer was later charged.
In 2017, an officer was suspended without pay after being charged with theft.