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Lethbridge police chief weighs in after ASIRT launches investigation into surveillance of former minister by officers

Click to play video 'Acting police chief calls actions of Lethbridge officers who surveilled MLA an ‘embarassment’' Acting police chief calls actions of Lethbridge officers who surveilled MLA an ‘embarassment’
WATCH ABOVE: There is more fallout after two Lethbridge police officers were demoted for their unauthorized surveillance of former NDP environment minister Shannon Phillips. The acting police chief called what happened an embarrassment and the province has called for an investigation. Quinn Campbell reports.

The chief of the Lethbridge Police Service has spoken publicly the day after news broke that two officers were sanctioned for using their position to conduct surveillance of former environment minister Shannon Phillips.

“The actions for which these officers – Sgt. Jason Carrier and Cst. Keon Woronuk – were disciplined cannot be excused,” Chief Scott Woods said in a Tuesday news release.

“But acknowledging the wrong-doing does not take away the embarrassment and shame that has been brought upon the LPS by their actions, nor does it mitigate the justified anger and profound disappointment of Ms. Phillips and others in our community who have a right to expect so much better from their Police Service.”

According to an agreed statement of facts, Phillips was conducting an informal meeting in 2017 about the potential closure of parts of the Castle Park area to make way for a new provincial park at a downtown Lethbridge diner.

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Read more: 2 Lethbridge police officers demoted after using positions for personal, political agendas

Carrier and Woronuk were in the diner and overheard the conversation and admitted to taking photos of Phillips and her stakeholders.

The agreed statement said Woronuk told Carrier he would “hate to see Phillips drive away from the restaurant and there was a reason to stop her.”

Woronuk followed one of the stakeholders instead, hoping to catch them committing a driving infraction. He ran the licence plate and sent a copy to Carrier in case he lost the vehicle.

In April 2017, under the alias Mike Corps, Woronuk posted a photo of Phillips and her stakeholders to Facebook, criticizing Phillips and the NDP government.

LISTEN BELOW: MLA Shannon Phillips joins The Ryan Jespersen Show

When Phillips saw the photo, she filed a complaint under the Police Act and the Calgary Police Service investigated the LPS.

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Woronuk admitted to five counts under the Police Service Regulation and has been demoted from senior constable to first-class constable for two years.

Carrier admitted to discreditable conduct and neglect of duty under the Police Service Regulation and has been demoted from sergeant to senior constable for one year.

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“While these officers have indeed failed in their duties, that failure does not reflect the values and duty of the police service to the community,” Scott said.

“Our challenge as a service is to continue pursuing those values and that duty in spite of the human frailties and shortcomings displayed by these officers.”

Scott added that, even though it was only the two officers who were sanctioned, the entire LPS bears the consequences.

Click to play video 'William Shatner slams Lethbridge police after May 4 Stormtrooper incident' William Shatner slams Lethbridge police after May 4 Stormtrooper incident
William Shatner slams Lethbridge police after May 4 Stormtrooper incident

“It now falls to us to regain the trust of the community that has been lost as a result of their actions.”

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In a Tuesday news release, the vice president of the Lethbridge Police Association refuted that claim.

“Both cited officers have been cooperative throughout the process and take full responsibility for their actions.” Mike Darby said.

“This aberration is not a reflection of the membership as a whole. The members of the Lethbridge Police Association are committed to professionalism and serving the community.”

Darby also noted a retired Superintendent of the CPS who has a “plethora of knowledge” as well as previous experience in police discipline and has dismissed police officers in the past wrote the decision.

“The presiding officer speaks at length in this decision about the sanctions set upon the cited officers and why they are appropriate.”

An investigation into the matter by the province’s police watchdog — the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team — has been ordered by the justice minister, so Scott said no further comment would be provided from the LPS.