Review of 1997 internal police investigation released
The Calgary Police Commission has completed its review of the Calgary Police Service's internal handling of a criminal allegation made in 1997 against then police officer, Sean Chu. The incident came to light during the 2021 municipal election and a review was ordered by the commission soon after.
The review identified some policies and processes that were not properly followed during the internal investigation, mostly around when a disciplinary investigation was completed and how information was communicated to the youth who reported that she had been sexually assaulted by the officer. While the errors had the potential to impact the outcome of the case, it does not appear that occurred as an internal investigation and disciplinary hearing did eventually happen.
However, the errors created significant delay and mistrust in the process.
“We do not have the legal ability to go back and reopen this case, but we wanted to make sure any failings in the process back then are not continuing today,” said Commission Chair Shawn Cornett. “A teenage girl came to the Service with serious allegations about an officer and the Service did not provide her with the compassionate support she needed to navigate a complex and intimidating process. It was not okay then and it would not be okay now.”
The commission’s Public Complaint Director completed the review focusing on the documentation provided by the Service and decision documents from the case’s appeals. The Service fully cooperated with the review and provided extensive historical records from the case.
The aim of the review was to determine whether the Service followed its policies, whether any policy gaps existed, and whether any of those gaps still exist today. It did not review the criminal investigation, the decision not to lay criminal charges, or former Constable Chu’s fitness for public office, as the commission does not have that legal authority.
A few recommendations came out of the review, but all of them have already been put into practice since 1997. The biggest change is that the province would now be notified of a police misconduct case involving a sexual assault allegation and the file would be independently investigated by, or at least reviewed by, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.
The Service has also established strong processes for tracking internal investigations and ensures that disciplinary investigations always occur in addition to criminal investigations when an officer is accused of a crime. Finally, the Service’s website has made more information available to people on how the complaint process works.
“We are satisfied that if similar allegations came in today, they would be handled quite differently,” said Cornett. “But we also recognize that this finding does little to address the years of hurt and frustration experienced by a person in our community who just wanted accountability for something that happened to her as a teenager.”
The full public report on the review can be found on the commission’s website.
The Calgary Police Commission is a body of 10 community members and two city councillors appointed by City Council to provide independent citizen governance and oversight of the Calgary Police Service on behalf of all Calgarians.
To protect the political neutrality of the police, Alberta’s Police Act requires that the police chief report directly to the Commission and that the Commission give direction to the Service through the chief, police policies, monitoring of the police conduct complaints process, and approval of how the police budget is spent.