Despite video evidence which "shows an unprovoked assault," a Lethbridge, Alta., police officer will not be criminally charged because the Alberta Crown felt the investigation took too long, according to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT).
Video and witness testimony show the officer grabbed a man by the throat, punched him, threw him to the ground and then sat on his chest. The man was released at the scene and was never charged.
"The evidence of [civilian witnesses] and the video taken … shows an unprovoked assault by the [subject officer] on the [affected person]," reads part of the ASIRT release issued Thursday.
"It was not proportionate, necessary, or reasonable on the evidence they provided."
Out of control party
The incident took place at a Halloween party at a community centre in the early morning hours of Oct. 29, 2018.
Hundreds of people attended and fights broke out, both inside and outside the venue. Several witnesses told investigators one man pulled a gun, others had baseball bats and one person discharged a fire extinguisher.
Around 1:30 a.m., one fight broke out outside involving one of ASIRT's witnesses and the man who was eventually punched by the officer.
Police arrived and video shows the subject officer walking around the group to get to his alleged victim. This, despite the officer's notes saying the man stepped in front of him in an effort to block him.
Officer 'not truthful' with ASIRT
One of ASIRT's findings was that the officer under investigation — who refused to be interviewed by investigators — lied in his statement and notes he'd provided.
For example, the officer claimed he "threw a check" at the victim.
"What he actually did was grab the [affected person] by the throat, push him, and then punch him in the face," wrote ASIRT.
"The [subject officer] was not truthful in his statement or notes on the police file."
ASIRT began its investigation within days of the incident but at the time had a serious backlog of cases. The organization suffered from "chronic underfunding" until March 2022, when its budget was increased by the provincial government by 35 per cent.
Following the investigation, which took more than four years, ASIRT found "reasonable grounds to believe that an offence may have been committed by the [subject officer]."
It referred the matter to the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) on February 22, 2023 for an opinion on whether charges should be laid.
Two weeks later, ACPS returned its opinion that a prosecution was not in the public interest because of the lengthy delay and recommended no charges be laid against the officer.
"ASIRT acknowledges this delay and has recently undertaken steps to ensure, as best as possible, that when grounds exist for the executive director to send a file to ACPS it is sent as soon as possible," wrote the police watchdog in its release.