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ASIRT notes pursuit for review but recommends no Calgary officer charges in 2020 crashes

Pursuit of suspect vehicles has been pinpointed as an area for further review as Alberta’s law enforcement watchdog released reports on two Calgary Police Service incidents from 2020.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team delivered reports on a fatal collision from Feb. 10, 2020, and an injury collision on Aug. 18, 2020.  In both cases, no further charges were warranted against officers for their actions in the events.

In the two cases, brief vehicle pursuits were engaged by CPS responding officers.

The Feb. 2020 incident involved police investigating a suspicious vehicle driving in a shopping plaza under construction with the light off. Officers were near the plaza for 88 seconds, records show.

Officers followed, without emergency lights activated as the driver of the vehicle went on to Country Hills Blvd NE. They tried to obtain a licence plate number but could only get a partial one, the report read.  

In pursuit, Calgary police began recording the call. The speed of the officer’s vehicle reached 152 km/h, with the suspect vehicle driving roughly the same speed before pulling away. Shortly after, at the intersection of Metis Trail and Country Hills Blvd, the suspect vehicle ran a red light and hit a vehicle. The suspect was thrown from the vehicle and died, while the driver of the other vehicle was seriously injured.

The officer’s emergency lights weren’t activated until after the collision, the report read. The entire interaction was roughly one minute, according to ASIRT.

ASIRT photo of the police camera. ASIRT

Incident 2

On Aug. 18, 2020, an officer responded to a call for a problem residence and suspicious activity around 1:15 p.m.. A black car had been reported by a civilian witness and that vehicle was identified by the responding officer. At that time, emergency lights were activated, and the black car drove off at a high rate of speed, the report read.

At that point, the officer radioed that there was a vehicle that wasn’t stopping for him. According to the report, the officer pulled over shortly after and advised dispatch of the vehicle’s last known direction.

At around 1:31 p.m. that day, several 911 calls came in reporting a crash into the Tuxedo Park Community Centre and the driver was trapped under the deck of the house. He suffered serious upper body and head injuries, according to the report.

Civilian witnesses reported that first responders didn’t show up for five minutes. One commented that he was told by bystanders that the vehicle was being chased by police.

“This surprised him, because he stated if that had been the case, he would have expected they would have been on scene sooner,” the ASIRT report read.

The officer’s speed, according to GPS data collected for the investigation, ranged between 12 km/hr and 100 km/hr. He travelled along Edmonton Trail and both 25 and 29 Avenues.

“While (subject officer) began pursuing (affected person’s) vehicle, he ceased doing so very shortly thereafter. The subsequent crash and injuries to AP rest solely with him,” the report read.

Pursuit didn’t cause the crashes: ASIRT

In both cases, ASIRT indicated the evidence didn’t support the pursuits being the cause of the crashes.

In the latter case, ASIRT did point to a potential breach of CPS’s criminal flight policy.

“This said, it appears that SO may have breached some CPS policies as they relate to entering into and participating in a criminal flight response,” the report read.

“These are issues that are outside the scope of ASIRT’s mandate, and can be addressed by the CPS as they deem necessary/appropriate.”

The prior case also concluded that the brief pursuit wasn’t a cause for the crash.

“The collision was the result of AP1’s dangerous driving,” the report read.

“The issues with the brief pursuit are best addressed through CPS disciplinary processes.”

The Calgary police provided a statement on their pursuit policy and any disciplinary action for officers in these cases.

They said over the past several years, they’ve made significant changes to the way they train for high-risk incidents, including pursuits. They said these are dynamic situations and their priority is public and officer safety.

“During these incidents, our members must make quick decisions, based on the information they have in the moment to balance the risks of all involved, including the community, the officer themselves and the offender,” read a statement.

“Officers are trained to constantly consider a number of factors in these situations, such as public safety, the nature of the offence, whether or not the offender is known, the environment and roadway conditions at the time, other vehicle and pedestrian traffic, and the availability of additional police resources, including HAWCS.”

CPS said that since 2019, there have been several changes in policy for high-risk vehicle events. That has included the introduction of vehicle-based training.

They said they can’t comment on disciplinary matters due to privacy laws. They said they review all ASIRT reports to determine if any additional steps are required.

ASIRT decision on Calgary police case 2020 by Darren Krause on Scribd

ASIRT decision on Calgary police case from 2020 by Darren Krause on Scribd