Three members of the law enforcement review board were presented the final arguments on Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips’ appeal related to an incident where she was put under unlawful surveillance by two Lethbridge police officers.
Phillips is appealing the decision to temporarily demote Sgt. Jason Carrier after he admitted to neglect of duty for failing to report the matter.
The other officer involved, Keon Woronuk, has resigned from the service and the board no longer has jurisdiction over his actions.
In 2017, the two men took photos of Phillips at a local diner where she was conducting an informal meeting.
Woronuk followed one of the people Phillips was meeting, conservationist Harvey Locke, in an attempt to catch him committing a driving infraction while also searching his information using police resources.
Speaking during the appeal, Phillips’ attorney Michael Bates argued Carrier should have reported Woronuk’s actions to the “highest levels of the LPS.”
He added the surveillance of Phillips “genuinely strikes at the core of the democratic process,” adding: “None of this would’ve happened if not for the misconduct of Sgt. Carrier.”
Bates alleges Carrier was an accessory to Woronuk’s actions and is requesting Carrier be terminated for his actions and if that is not possible, that he be demoted permanently and take mandatory ethics training.
Dan Scott, Carrier’s defense counsel, called the event an “aberration on an otherwise very good career.”
“On an objective look at the evidence, Sgt. Carrier did not participate in any following or targeting or surveillance of Shannon Phillips.” Scott also said that the officer took full responsibility for his mistake, acknowledging he handled the situation “poorly.”
Scott says he doesn’t see the value of sending the matter back to a rehearing at this point but suggests the board could review how the matter was handled without further punishing Carrier.
In a statement released Wednesday, Phillips said:
“Since at least 2017, the actions of Lethbridge Police Service employees have been designed to deliberately and directly deter from my ability to do my job as MLA representing the people of Lethbridge-West and all Albertans.
“These efforts should not succeed. There are multiple investigations and processes, involving many different officers. We cannot tolerate this conduct in a democratic society, no matter what party or political view.
“That is why today I will be in my constituency speaking about the public health crisis that comes as a direct result of UCP policies, attacks on doctors and attempts to cut wages for frontline workers.
“Currently, there are more than 43,000 Lethbridge residents without access to primary care physicians. I will be speaking about this, introducing Albertans to people who are suffering as a result and calling for immediate action.
“I will not be taking questions about my ongoing legal matters with the Lethbridge Police Service and Lethbridge Police Commission.
“I can tell you that I stand behind my actions on this matter to date, including how I referred to two disgraced former officers who have resigned due to their misconduct targeting me. Both of those officers resigned rather than face internal disciplinary processes, but they are both still under criminal investigation for what they did to me.
“The UCP Minister of Justice and I are not united on much. Premier Kenney and I do not often agree. But we all agree that targeting a sitting MLA for political reasons cannot be tolerated in a democratic society. For this reason, I have filed a complaint against the officers who sought to limit my activities as an MLA by writing to the Speaker yesterday. A democratic society cannot tolerate members of a police service who feel free to act outside their oath.
“At the end of the day, the Lethbridge Police Service needs to focus on reducing and responding to crime, which is rising in Lethbridge. And I will focus on advocating for the citizens of Lethbridge. That’s why our tax dollars go to the LPS and why the voters elected me to the Legislature. I will focus on my job, and I expect all members of the LPS – without exception – to do theirs.”