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Police misconduct database launched by Alberta volunteer group

A one-of-a-kind, volunteer-driven database has been created cataloging 400 incidents of police misconduct in Alberta over the past 30 years.

In a news release, the Alberta Police Misconduct Database Association announced Canada’s first searchable online portal.

The incidents involve approximately 500 officers across Alberta.

In the release, Edmonton paralegal, and head of the Alberta Police Misconduct Association, Devyn Ens, said the portal is a tool for police accountability.  

“We want this searchable portal to help further discussions about policing in Alberta, and across the country. Volunteers have spent hundreds of hours and a lot of late nights reviewing cases, entering data, and building this database,” said Ens.

According to the Calgary police, an average of 0.11 per cent of calls for service result in formal complaints. However, the vast majority of the complaints are dealt with informally through the clarification of actions taken, helping with an off-the-record discussion between the involved parties, or by the officer’s superior addressing the issue, the page read.

The Calgary police also post annual reports from their Professional Standards Section (PSS). It shows complaints, concerns and compliments received each year. The report also shows how the files were addressed by the PSS and the Chief Constable.

Variety of sources used to collect police information

Information on the searchable portal come from publicly available information, such as newspaper clippings, CanLII decisions (court judgments from all Canadian courts), and disciplinary hearings and documents obtained through Freedom of Information requests.

Amy Matychuk, vice-president of the Alberta Police Misconduct Database Association, and a Calgary-based lawyer at Prison and Police Law said the database was created through a collaborative effort between lawyers, academics, students and other professionals.

“Compiling all of these cases in one place, publicly accessible to anyone with an internet connection, will aid efforts to hold police officers in Alberta accountable,” said Matychuk.

To use the database users can go to the site and search an officer’s name, a keyword, a year, or a police force. Viewers will be able to get information about incidents of violent behaviours, sexual abuse and charges laid against off-duty officers and other police misconduct that occurred in Alberta since 1993.

“We know we’re just scratching the surface. This database doesn’t yet capture every single incident of police misconduct in Alberta,” says Ens.

“This is a living, transparent, collaborative document.”