Katy Ingraham, a local restaurant owner had a lot to say to the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) at a meeting Thursday afternoon at city hall.
“What has become clear, is that the citizens of Edmonton are in an abusive relationship with the Edmonton police,” she said.
Her comments come after a widely circulated local video of an Indigenous woman being shoved to the ground by a police officer which led to a significant outcry both online and at a rally last week.
“Without seeing the context of the video it can be alarming,” said deputy police chief Devin Laforce of the EPS at the commission meeting.
The police said that CCTV footage collected from two different cameras provides the full context of what happened and that they believe the officer acted reasonably.
They displayed CCTV footage that showed an image of the knife that the woman was holding.
Judi Calahoo Stonehouse, a member of Michel First Nation, who is also a member of the police commission, spoke about the concerns that have come from the Indigenous community after the videos were widely circulated.
“This morning there were two pipes that were lifted. Elders reminded me this morning that we signed the Treaty and lift the pipe it in peace and friendship,” said Calahoo Stonehouse.
“Any level of violence against a woman means we have to ask questions,” said Calahoo Stonehouse. “These are complicated issues and they are difficult and uncomfortable.” She also mentioned that there were significant concerns about the use of drugs in the community.
Mina Laderout, a Cree-Métis resident of Edmonton attended the police commission meeting as a concerned citizen.
She said that seeing the police release the CCTV footage and photos of the knife has not changed her outlook on the shoving incident.
“I do not trust them anyway with their photo. I am not calling them liars but I have seen enough to not trust them at their word when they do something I see as wrong,” she said.
“I think that the use of force was way over, way overused. He had just as much of an opportunity to subdue and use handcuffs.”
Police say race and gender are not a factor
Calahoo Stonehouse asked the police to begin reporting information on race and gender within the use of force reports that the commission receives. Currently, that is not recorded by EPS.
Similar calls have been made in other cities, such as Calgary and Toronto. Toronto Police Service has been required by provincial legislation to collect race-based data since 2020.
Speaking to the media, Laforce said the police do not factor in race or gender in their training, but rather the focus is on the person’s capacity to hurt others.
“As far as our officers are trained as a reasonable officer response….race and gender are not a part of that conversation,” said Laforce.
No charges laid in knife incident
APTN News has identified the woman who was shoved by the officer. She doesn’t wish to speak to the media at this time.
The police officer who arrested the Indigenous woman decided not to press charges.
“He was within his authority to make that arrest but afterward the subject was intoxicated, had to eat and there was some wellness considerations,” said Laforce to media after the police commission meeting.
He also added that the complainant had no interest in pursuing charges.
When questioned on why it took the police so long to release the CCTV and knife footage given reputation issues with the Edmonton police, Laforce said he felt that EPS had moved quickly.
“I think it moved quick… the investigation itself has to conclude and we had to make sure there wasn’t further follow-up or future charges,” said Laforce.
Police force statistics
In the 2023-26 Edmonton Police Service’s strategic plan there’s a similar recognition that the community may see the role of police as different than it has been in the past.
The report said, “police and politics have become increasingly intertwined, with many opposing views on what some believe policing should be and what it fundamentally must do: keep people safe.”
The police use of force statistics indicates that slightly more than 85 per cent of the time, the police used force between January to June 2022.
The use-of-force report showed one injury that required hospitalization and 70 incidents of minor injuries requiring medical treatment including stitches or strain.
However, any fatalities or deaths that require an investigation from the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team are not included in the control tactic report.
There have been four deaths due to police shootings in 2022. The police commission receives that report annually.
Discussion on Police Brutality
Earlier in the week, Judith Gale, leader of the Bear Clan Beaver Hills house co-organized a rally outside of the Edmonton police service’s downtown headquarters with a similar message.
“We don’t want to protest per se but we want to gather together as community and start a conversation on police brutality,” she said.
Gale called on people to write and call the police commission to express their concerns.
“The more people [put in a complaint] the more they have to address it right?” said Gale.
EPS released a statement that said that the police had responded to a complaint about weapons and came across two women having an argument. According to the statement, the police officer asked the woman to drop a knife that she was holding.
An eyewitness who is concerned about retaliation by police for sharing her perspective said she witnessed the argument and did not see the knife, nor did she hear the officer tell the woman to drop a knife.
The eye witness said that there was an exchange of words between the woman and the officer before that she did not hear.
Rally attendees spoke about reoccurring incidents of police brutality among the homeless population in Edmonton and Gale called for body cams to be given to officers.
“We are continuing the discussion on body cams, but there’s no decision made yet,” said Laforce.