Lawyer wants officer dismissed for tracking Alberta minister in 2017
The lawyer for Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips is asking Alberta's Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB) to recommend a dismissal of an officer who photographed Phillips and didn't report the improper activity to a superior.
Last July, Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) officers Sgt. Jason Carrier and Const. Keon Woronuk were temporarily demoted after admitting to using their positions to watch Phillips and guests who had met with the then-environment minister at a diner in 2017. The pair admitted to tracking Phillips and taking photographs of her for personal and political reasons.
According to the disciplinary report, both officers were avid off-road vehicle riders and had concerns with the NDP's plans to restrict vehicle use in the Castle region. Phillips was serving as the province's environment minister at the time.
Woronuk followed the vehicle of a person who met with Phillips, ran a police check on the license plate and sent a screen capture of the results to Carrier and another member of the LPS. He then posted photos of Phillips at the diner to Facebook using a pseudonym.
Woronuk has since resigned from the LPS.
Phillips was granted the right to appeal the way LPS dealt with her complaints and how the two officers were disciplined. At Tuesday's LERB hearing, Phillips' lawyer Michael Bates argued that Sgt. Carrier knew what Woronuk was doing, yet failed to report it.
"It was his sworn duty to report the illegal conduct of his friend, but he did nothing," Bates argued.
Carrier's lawyer, Dan Scott, said that the sergeant took the initial picture of Phillips, but did not participate in following her or the person she had met with.
"We take great issue with any suggestion that there was a plan on behalf of anybody other than Const. Woronuk to follow anybody from the diner," Scott said Tuesday afternoon.
Bates is also asking for the LERB to recommend mandatory ethics and professional responsibility training for officers.
"Like any member of the public, it is okay to hold opinions and views but, unlike an ordinary member of the public, a police officer acting in his official capacity must be, and must be seen as being politically neutral," Bates told the LERB.
"A police officer should never use their office as a means to advance their personal agenda," he said.
Phillips attended the LERB's hearing virtually, but did not speak. Her office declined an interview request. The Lethbridge Police Service says it will not comment while the matter is ongoing.
There is no word exactly when the LERB's decision will be issued.
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