Canine officer charged with on-duty assault
Our Professional Standards Section, in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service in Edmonton, has charged an officer with assault in connection with an incident earlier this year.
Around 11 p.m., on Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021, officers spotted a vehicle that, according to the licence plates, had been reported stolen. They followed the vehicle from a distance until it parked outside of a building in the 1200 block of 34 Avenue N.E.
After sitting in the vehicle for a period, the driver exited and began walking towards the building. As she approached the entrance, a canine officer approached her and ordered her to lie on the ground. After she put her belongings down but did not immediately lie down, the officer forced her to the ground. It is then alleged that the officer kicked her in the back and that the officer’s canine then bit the woman.
Once the woman was in custody, it was determined that she was a victim of a licence plate swap, where, unbeknownst to the victim, plates from a stolen vehicle are swapped with a similar parked car to avoid detection.
While it was lawful to arrest the woman to investigate what officers reasonably believed was a stolen vehicle, an internal investigation and review by the Crown prosecutor has determined that criminal charges are appropriate for the force used during the arrest.
CPS proactively reached out to the victim as soon as we became aware of the incident. She has fully cooperated with the investigation and has been offered the full range of victim support resources.
Constable Keegan Metz, a 12-year member of the Service, has been charged with assault with a weapon and assault causing bodily harm in relation to this incident. He was removed from the Canine Unit immediately after the incident and is now suspended with pay. His pay and status will be regularly reviewed as the case progresses.
Police conduct in Alberta is governed by the Criminal Code of Canada, and Alberta’s Police Act and Police Service Regulation. Officers are permitted to use reasonable and necessary force in the execution of their duties, but they can be charged if there are reasonable grounds to believe that force was excessive or not required at all.
There are two separate, but related, processes that occur when police officers are criminally charged. They first have a trial where the courts rule on the criminal charges, followed by an internal disciplinary process that rules on whether their conduct was appropriate according to our training, policies and police regulations. The internal process cannot occur until after the criminal trial is over, to ensure a fair trial.
If the alleged misconduct is serious, the Chief Constable does not have the legal authority to impose discipline or fire an officer. Under Alberta’s Police Act, these cases must go to a disciplinary hearing where a retired judge or a retired senior police officer rules on the case and imposes the appropriate discipline, up to and including dismissal.
Alberta’s Police Service Regulation governs when an officer can be suspended and the Chief Constable makes the decision based on factors like risk to the public, fairness to the officer (who is presumed innocent), and options available for modified duties. Officers can legally only be suspended without pay if exceptional circumstances exist.