A professional conduct hearing on Tuesday in Lethbridge saw three police officers admit guilt to several counts of misconduct, while two others were absent from the hearing due to their intention to resign.
According to the agreed statement of facts, Sgt. Jason Moulton started a group called ‘meme militia’ on the platform WhatsApp in July 2018, and invited other members of the Lethbridge Police Service to join.
The group shared texts and images that contravene LPS policy, including offensive depictions of other members of the police service and society in general, as well as pornography.
The messages have been described as ‘profane’ and ‘abusive’.
While all chats were sent via personal computers or cell phones in the private chat, ‘most’ were sent during private time.
Due to their protection under a sealing order, the contents of those chats and memes have not been revealed publicly, but that order can be lifted once all proceedings have been concluded, according to the presiding officer.
In June, 2021, Sgt. Moulton pleaded not guilty to eight counts of professional misconduct — while Const. Keon Woronuk, Const. Matthew Rilkoff, Const. Derek Riddel and Const. David Easter pleaded not guilty to six counts.
On Tuesday, that changed.
Sgt. Moulton and constables Easter and Rilkoff plead guilty to several misconduct charges including insubordination, discreditable conduct and neglect of duty.
Two other charges were dropped for all three officers.
The proceedings for Sgt. Moulton have been pushed to December 15th. He plead not guilty to one charge of discreditable conduct.
A joint submission by the defence and the presenting officer was put forward suggesting Easter and Rilkoff be demoted two ranks for a period of one year resulting in a loss of about $15,000 in pay each.
Both officers were described as having excellent records in the past.
The presiding officer will rule on the joint submission on December 16.
Constables Riddel and Wornuk were excused from Tuesday’s hearing, as they intend to file resignations and police will lose jurisdiction in their matters, with their hearing adjourned to February 3.
Jay McMillan, president of the Lethbridge Police Association, was present at Tuesday’s hearing.
He said he’s relieved to finally have a resolution underway.
“We’re happy that we’re at this stage now,” he told Global News. “We can finally get some of these matters taken care of and concluded.
“It’s been three years in the making to get to this stage”
According to Lethbridge Police Service, all five officers remain suspended with pay.
LPS said they will be available to comment on these matters once they have all been concluded.