ASIRT Concludes Investigation into Calgary Police Canine Incident

On October 6, 2013, the Director of Law Enforcement directed the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) to investigate the circumstances surrounding the use of a police service canine to remove a 72-year-old man from a vehicle.

On September 19, 2013 at approximately 5 p.m., the Public Safety Communications Centre received a 911 call from a 72-year-old man regarding some suspicious people selling jewelry in his back alley. The man became agitated and frustrated with the 911 operator, who was asking questions he felt were unnecessary simply to have police dispatched and he was concerned the individuals in the alley would leave. When the operator indicated it might take a while for police to get there, the man stated “Okay then I’ve got a shotgun. I can go out there and keep them there. Thank you.” After further brief discussion, the call ended.

When the call was dispatched, it was characterized as a gun call and the very upset man had said he was going to get his shotgun and deal with the people. Calgary Police Service (CPS) officers were dispatched to the incident and talked to the man by cellphone to determine his whereabouts.

Upon locating the man, a high-risk vehicle stop was performed by CPS officers due to the mention of a possible firearm during the initial call. The man, who was sitting in his vehicle, refused several times to step out of his vehicle as instructed by CPS officers. Given concerns that the man might have a firearm within reach inside the vehicle and his refusal to exit the vehicle, a police service canine was deployed into the man’s vehicle through the driver’s window. The man suffered bite injuries that required 10 stitches to close and caused severe bruising to the man’s right shoulder and side. It was determined after arrest that the man did not have a firearm in his vehicle. Upon review of the original 911 call, officers determined the statement made did not constitute a threat to cause death or bodily harm. Once the investigation was complete, an expert opinion on the use of force was requested by ASIRT.

ASIRT Executive Director, Susan D. Hughson Q.C., received the completed investigation and upon reviewing it, forwarded the investigative file, including the expert opinion, to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) for a legal opinion on reasonable likelihood of conviction. After careful consideration of the legal opinion provided, Ms. Hughson determined that the officer involved will not be charged with any criminal offences arising out of this incident.

ASIRT’s mandate is to effectively, independently, and objectively investigate incidents involving Alberta’s police that have resulted in serious injury or death to any person, as well as serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct.