Statement on Turner/Wal Professional Standards Section Investigation
In the early morning hours of Aug. 25, 2012, Edyta Wal and Chris Turner were severely injured when struck by a car while crossing Macleod Trail. Ms. Wal died shortly thereafter, and Mr. Turner died in hospital. The CPS Traffic Section investigated the collision which caused their deaths. The Turner and Wal families formally complained to the Calgary Police Service about the collision investigation and traffic reconstruction report. This initially resulted in disciplinary charges being made in relation to three officers involved with the investigation. The charges were subsequently withdrawn on Dec. 1, 2021 for the reasons outlined below.
Earlier this week, we met with the families to provide them with information about the decision to withdraw the allegations against three officers involved in the investigation of the traffic collision that took their loved ones’ lives. Out of respect for the families, we had planned to meet with them before the allegations were formally withdrawn, however due to scheduling conflicts that meeting had to be postponed until after the hearing.
During this meeting we apologized for the impact this process has had on them and their children’s friends, and for the lack of communication from CPS throughout the process regarding the status of the investigation and their formal complaint. The decision to withdraw the allegations was not taken lightly. Mindful of the impact this would have on the families, a significant review of all the relevant circumstances was conducted before coming to this conclusion. We provided the families an overview of the summary of evidence from the investigation during our meeting, part of which is summarized below.
Although the investigating officers suspected the driver had consumed alcohol earlier that evening, his eye and facial injuries and resulting transport to the hospital prevented a roadside breath demand. At the time of the collision, s. 253 of the Criminal Code required officers to have reasonable grounds to believe a driver had committed a criminal offence before demanding a blood sample. The officers sought evidence to form ‘reasonable grounds,’ which included speaking to witnesses and the driver, smelling the driver’s breath for liquor, listening for speech impairment, and looking for physical or cognitive impairment. None of those factors, considered individually or together, provided the necessary grounds. After talking to the treating doctor and other responding officers from the Traffic Section, the officer investigating the driver considered the requirements for a blood demand. He concluded he did not have the reasonable grounds required to make that demand or seek a warrant. CPS asked the Crown Prosecution Service whether there was sufficient evidence to criminally charge the driver. After receiving the written Crown opinion, the driver was not criminally charged. CPS believes this was the correct decision given insufficient evidence to form reasonable grounds to believe the driver was impaired. The Criminal Code has since been amended and as of 2018, the legal test to be met before demanding blood requires only the ‘suspicion’ of alcohol or drug consumption. The families also were troubled by an officer’s communication with them after the collision. CPS acknowledged this communication should have contained additional information. It also acknowledged that CPS should have given the families more complete and timely information throughout the investigations.
We also explained the steps the Service took before withdrawing the allegations of professional misconduct against the officers. All the evidence gathered was thoroughly reviewed and discussed. Experts in collision reconstruction and impaired driving reviewed the file to determine whether the collision reconstruction report was correct and complete, and whether the two traffic officers properly investigated the collision. Although there were things that could have been done better, the investigation and reconstruction were deemed complete and in keeping with standards and processes applicable at the time. The presenting officers concluded there was no reasonable prospect of proving any of the misconduct allegations, resulting in their withdrawal.
We know this explanation does little to bring closure to the families. As a Service, it took too long for us to reach this decision and the delay only prolonged the anguish for them. We have since made changes to improve our processes and timelines to investigate and address police conduct to prevent delays like this. We also have taken additional steps to support families during and after tragic events. Investigators work with our Victims Assistance Support Teams to ensure families have a dedicated point of contact and the support they need. We have also improved our processes for providing sudden death notifications and supports to family members to ensure that families who suffer a terrible loss like this are treated with the compassion they deserve.
The families’ grief and suffering are unimaginable. That our Service contributed to their pain is unacceptable and contrary to our core values, especially compassion. We apologize.