Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips speaks at a press conference after a meeting with provincial and territorial environment ministers in Ottawa on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The chief of the Lethbridge police service says they will co-operate fully with a probe into officers allegedly making unauthorized checks on a provincial cabinet minister.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

Alberta Minister of Environment and Parks Shannon Phillips speaks at a press conference after a meeting with provincial and territorial environment ministers in Ottawa on Thursday, June 28, 2018. The chief of the Lethbridge police service says they will co-operate fully with a probe into officers allegedly making unauthorized checks on a provincial cabinet minister.THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle

‘Vast majority’ of officers committed to bias-free policing: Alberta police chief

Investigation launched into officers who allegedly made unauthorized checks on a provincial cabinet minister

The chief of the Lethbridge Police Service in southern Alberta says it will co-operate fully with an investigation into officers who allegedly made unauthorized checks on a provincial cabinet minister.

Shahin Mehdizahdeh says the force takes the matter involving Shannon Phillips seriously and the “vast majority” of officers and staff are committed to a policy of objective policing.

“As a service we are dedicated to honourable, bias-free policing,” Mehdizahdeh said Wednesday.

“We have a lot of great people here, a lot of good men and women here who protect this community every day and do a lot of wonderful things.

“But are we a perfect organization? No. I have not seen a perfect organization anywhere.”

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, the province’s police watchdog informally called ASIRT, is looking into whether five Lethbridge officers and one civilian employee breached the politician’s privacy by making multiple database checks on her while she was environment minister in 2018.

Phillips has confirmed she found evidence of such checks when she searched her file under freedom-of-information rules.

Phillips is currently the Opposition NDP’s finance critic and legislature member for Lethbridge West.

“Lethbridge Police Service was not following or monitoring Miss Phillips. There are a few individuals who have made some bad judgments in using our systems,” said Mehdizadeh, who has been on the job for six months.

He urged the public not to rush to conclusions until the ASIRT investigation is complete. He said he is committed to holding officers accountable if warranted.

“We have to look at the facts. We have to look at the severity of their actions, why they did it, which comes through an investigation, and make a proper decision — not judgment,” said Mehdizadeh.

“I don’t like to judge people. I don’t believe human beings are entitled to judge other human beings. Only God judges us.”

Mehdizadeh said ASIRT will get whatever it needs.

“We will ensure every request made by those investigators is fully accommodated.”

The investigation is separate from a case involving two Lethbridge officers who admitted to staking out and photographing Phillips at a diner in 2017. They said they were concerned about her actions to reduce off-highway vehicle use in the nearby Castle Region park.

A photo of the meeting was later posted anonymously on Facebook with the caption: “Everyone’s favourite hypocrite.”

The two officers were temporarily demoted last summer, but Phillips said that punishment is too lenient. She recently won the right to appeal.

Phillips said her freedom-of-information search also revealed that in 2016 Lethbridge police investigated a case of someone receiving a spiked drink in a bar. One witness believed the drink was intended for Phillips, who said police never warned her that she might have been a target.

Mehdizadeh said he might review what happened. Police policy would have had Phillips informed if there was a serious concern about her safety, he added.

“If there was something that wasn’t done in 2016, I apologize for that. But I’m sure if there was a serious concern about her safety, she would have been notified,” he said.

In the legislature Tuesday, Phillips said she will get to the bottom of what happened. She said it’s not just for her, but for others who may not have the resources that she does to fight back.

“Here we have an MLA and a (cabinet) minister that has been photographed, a plan to follow her was hatched, her records were searched, false content about her was circulated by in-uniform police officers.

“I have dedicated my adult life and my career to democracy. Those principles will guide everything I do to make sure there is accountability at the Lethbridge Police Service.”

Mehdizadeh said other, unrelated complaints of police misconduct will be coming forward. Most of the allegations were made years ago, he said.

“There are some files that are coming basically for review right now after an investigation has been conducted,” he said.

Mehdizahdeh is asking the public to be patient.

“Some citizens may have the illusion as the chief of police I can just go fire people. I can’t do that. The police act does not allow for that.”

Bill Graveland, The Canadian Press

Police

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Alberta chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw said on Thursday that the province has seen its first case of the B.1.617 variant. (Photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Red Deer nears record number of active COVID-19 cases

Alberta reports 1,857 new cases of COVID-19, 1,326 new variants

Pastor Marco Ste-Marie of Rimbey United Church has spearheaded a new project called ‘Walking Through Rimbey’ to shine a light on various agencies and non-profit organizations. Photo submitted
‘Walking Through Rimbey’ continues to gather steam

Pastor Marco Ste Marie launched the project, aimed at building community connections, earlier this year

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta passes bill to give all workers paid leave to get COVID-19 vaccine shot

Labour Minister Jason Copping says Bill 71 will reduce barriers for Alberta workers to get vaccinated

Alberta completed 18,412 COVID-19 tests, as reported on Wednesday, for a test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Highest daily count of 2021 so far: Alberta reports 1,699 COVID-19 cases

Variants now make up 59 per cent of Alberta’s active cases

Alberta’s chief medical officer of health Dr. Deena Hinshaw and Premier Jason Kenney say the province would look at adding additional COVID-19 measures in the coming weeks if the virus continues to spread. (Photo by Government of Alberta)
Walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinic to open in Red Deer

Alberta adds 1,345 new cases of the virus

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and United States President Joe Biden smile as they say farewell following a virtual joint statement in Ottawa, Tuesday, February 23, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau pledges to cut emissions by 40% to 45% by 2030, short of U.S. goal

Trudeau announced target during a virtual climate summit convened by U.S. President Joe Biden

A health care worker prepares to test a Coastal GasLink field worker for COVID-19. (Coastal GasLink photo)
Alberta bill would protect health workers, care homes from some COVID-19 lawsuits

The bill proposes exempting a range of workers, including doctors, pharmacists and care-home operators, from being sued over COVID-19 unless it was for gross negligence

Journal de Montreal is seen in Montreal, on Thursday, April 22, 2021. The daily newspaper uses a file picture of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dressed in traditional Indian clothing during his trip to India to illustrate a story on the Indian variant of the coronavirus. Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press
Montreal newspaper blasted for front-page photo of Trudeau in India

Trudeau is wearing traditional Indian clothes and holding his hands together in prayer beside a caption that reads, ‘The Indian variant has arrived’

Education Minister Adriana LaGrange was in Red Deer on Friday to provide an update on the province's COVID-19 response in schools.
Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
Alberta government aiming to boost financial literacy among students

Government providing grants to organizations who will help design financial literacy programming

President Joe Biden holds a virtual bilateral meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
U.S. to help Canada with more COVID-19 vaccine supply, Biden says

The U.S. has already provided Canada with about 1.5 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin, center, is taken into custody as his attorney, Eric Nelson, left, looks on, after the verdicts were read at Chauvin’s trial for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis, Minn. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Court TV via AP, Pool
George Floyd’s death was ‘wake-up call’ about systemic racism: Trudeau

Derek Chauvin was found guilty Tuesday on all three charges against him

sign
Alberta Biobord Corp. recently hosted a virtual open house from Stettler

The company plans to develop a fuel pellet and medium density fibre board (MDF) plant near the community

Most Read