ASIRT executive director resigns after 7-year stint

Click to play video: 'Head of Alberta’s police watchdog agency resigns' Head of Alberta’s police watchdog agency resigns
WATCH ABOVE: The head of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team has resigned. Critics believe the move could speak to concerns about underfunding. Sarah Komadina explains. – Nov 30, 2021

The head of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) has given her notice.

Susan Hughson formally resigned Tuesday morning, just one day after the provincial police watchdog concluded no charges were warranted for a Calgary police officer involved in the controversial treatment of two men in arrest processing.

“I can confirm that I am leaving ASIRT. Other than that, I have no comment, sorry,” Hughson said in an email to Global News.

Read more: ASIRT recommends conduct review for CPS officer but not charges

Hughson joined ASIRT as acting executive director back in July 2014. In a news release at that time, it read she “has more than 23 years of experience as a crown prosecutor, including many years conducting prosecutions of serious and violent crime.”

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Prior to her role with ASIRT, she spent time as director of the appeals unit for the Alberta Crown prosecution service.

Hughson confirmed with Global News she will be moving on to become a prosecutor at the Alberta crown specialized prosecutions branch.

Minister of Justice says the move was planned

In a statement, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kaycee Madu said this was a planned transition that had been underway for some time.

“A few months ago, ACPS approached Ms. Hughson for assistance on a file which evolved into a mutual decision for her to permanently return,” Madu said.

“An acting executive director, Mike Ewenson, has already been identified to lead ASIRT while a recruitment to permanently fill the position is underway.

The minister went on to say he thanks Hughson for her work.

‘I don’t blame her’

Tom Engel, a criminal defence lawyer in Edmonton, said he’s not surprised by Hughson’s resignation given the circumstances.

Engel, whose law firm deals with complaints against police, explained if he put himself in her position, he doesn’t think he could work in the same conditions either.

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“The demoralizing, the decisions by the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service, the long delays, the under-resourcing by successive ministers of justice and solicitor general… There’s only so long you can put up with those kinds of working conditions,” he said.

Neglect to the organization by the current and former justice ministers is one thing Engel points out that’s been a problem for quite some time. He added Hughson isn’t the only one to leave recently, as her “second in command” Gregory Gudelot had left in the summer to head up an ASIRT-like police watchdog in Saskatchewan.

Read more: Saskatchewan Serious Incident Response Team appoints executive director

Engel added with the top leadership gone and funding cut from the most recent provincial budget, cases — which already have about a two to three year waiting period to be processed from start to finish — will likely drag out even longer.

“I guess we’ll have to wait and see whether Kaycee Madu finally wakes up and decides that he’s got to do something about (ASIRT) … I am pretty pessimistic about that too.”

With files from Sarah Komadina, Global News

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