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ASIRT investigating after Edmonton police officer parkade arrest video goes viral

Click to play video: 'Criminologist wants Edmonton police to take immediate action against officers in ‘use of force’ investigations'
Criminologist wants Edmonton police to take immediate action against officers in ‘use of force’ investigations
An Edmonton criminologist said ASIRT is overwhelmed and understaffed, and Edmonton's law enforcement needs to step up to police their own. Temitope Oriola said he would like to see Edmonton Police Service brass take action against officers involved in use-of-force investigations sooner, to rebuild public trust. Quinn Ohler has the details – Feb 28, 2023

WARNING: This story contains details that may be offensive to some readers.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating whether excessive force was used by an Edmonton Police Service officer as a video of an altercation that is making the rounds online.

It happened Wednesday night in the parkade of a building east of the downtown core.

Edmonton police said officers saw a man driving “erratically” in a residential neighbourhood and followed him into a car park near 87 Street and 106 Avenue, according to a news release Sunday.

“An altercation took place, and when attempting to arrest the male, use of force occurred,” police said.

Surveillance video of the parkade shows the incident, with a male officer repeatedly punching the man in the head and taking him to the ground. The video was posted to Reddit Friday night, generating hundreds of comments.

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The man was arrested and faces two charges and traffic summons, police said.

Click to play video: 'ASIRT investigates EPS officer’s use of force'
ASIRT investigates EPS officer’s use of force

The EPS has a strict protocol for use of force, in which an officer needs to radio to a supervisor that they are using force so the supervisor can observe, and send a report up the chain of command, explained Tom Engel, chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers Policing Committee.

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While there is no confirmation on the medical status of the suspect who was hit, Engel said the police chief must, upon reading the reports and realizing there’s a serious injury, report immediately to the director of law enforcement, who then takes the case to ASIRT for investigation.

“Something went right off the rails here. That didn’t happen. And I understand it didn’t happen until the video went viral,” he said.

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The Director of Law Enforcement (DLE) was notified that the video was online, and the DLE requested ASIRT investigate, police said.

“I’ve seen a lot of use of force situations on video, and this was shocking,” said Tom Engel.

“What was shocking to me was how quickly this officer resorted to punching this person out.”

He compared the altercation to a hockey fight when one guy grabs the other by the shirt. There’s also a code of honour, he said, that you stop punching when the person goes down. But that didn’t happen in this fight.

“He just kept punching away to the back of this person’s head as hard as he could, and it’s dangerous to punch people in the head — police officers know that,” he said.

“This is a case where he could have killed this person.”

Engel said the officer should immediately be suspended without pay, “and let the investigation take course.”

The Edmonton Police Service confirmed March 1 that the officer’s duty status is under review.

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Temitobe Oriola, a criminology professor at the U of A and president-elect of the Canadian Sociological Association, added that even though ASIRT is investigating, punishment needs to be handed down “swiftly” to that officer by the EPS higher-ups, because taking too long to address the situation — or not addressing it at all — lends to a more violent police culture.

Click to play video: 'Transparency questions raised after woman shoved by Edmonton police officer isn’t charged'
Transparency questions raised after woman shoved by Edmonton police officer isn’t charged

He said it didn’t appear to him that the young man was posing a threat to either officer or the public, so how were the officer’s actions necessary?

“This raises a much larger question: The Edmonton Police Service needs to focus on recruiting psychologically unremarkable individuals. Does that officer have anger issues? What is the disciplinary record of that officer? Is this the first case that that officer was involved with in terms of this kind of violence,” Oriola posed.

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— With files from Morgan Black and Nicole Stillger, Global News

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