Crime & Punishment

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Archive for June 2006

Stench from apparent police cover-up won’t go away

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The story that broke in the Calgary Herald this morning is remarkable for a Canadian police department in this day and age.

The piece written by staffer Suzanne Wilton, details a memo written by then Inspector, now Deputy Chief Jim Hornby of the Calgary Police Service to then Deputy Chief Rick Hanson.

The first paragraph of the memo is striking:

“As per our conversation, I have a situation where I believe an officer’s notebook has been modified improperly that may bring the Service into disrepute. This surrounds an application for a search warrant and the grounds required to obtain it.”

Especially troubling is the fact that the warrant was returned empty. In other words, the warrant to search for a grow-op was granted based on information that was, at least in part, fabricated and the police found nothing. Which isn’t terribly surprising given the family who lived in the rented house are Joe and Jane Six-pack who run a small business refinishing furniture not growing marijuana. They don’t even use marijuana.

The raid occurred in September of 2000, nearly six years ago. Since then, the mom of the family, Nancy Killian Constant, has been desperately trying to find answers to determine why members of the Calgary Police Service forcibly entered her home at gunpoint and ordered her and her family to the floor.

She has gone through the police complaints procedure, the Law Enforcement Review Board and has launched a lawsuit. And so far, she hasn’t even received anything that might resemble an answer, let alone an apology.

The memo, a “smoking gun” that clearly demonstrates the Calgary Police knew they screwed up badly, was written by Hornby in December of 2000, three months after the events and still the management of the police department are dodging and obfuscating refusing to admit they were wrong.

This is unbelievable and this is wrong.

The search arose out of a landlord / tenant dispute which the landlord, Rocco Terrigno and his son, Michael, attempted to bully their way into their rented house late at night after the kids had been put to bed. Killian Constant’s husband blocked the Terrigno’s path and Michael tumbled backwards over a plant on the front steps.

He called the police alleging he had been assaulted. The police officer who attended, Cst. Ian Vernon, was a rookie. Despite the fact there was clearly no evidence to support a charge of assault against the husband, he was charged by Vernon with assault. This charge was later dropped by the Crown as it should have been.

A couple of days later Vernon got a warrant, supported by an Information to Obtain that alleged grounds that can only charitably be described as thin. I have read the ITO and in my opinion the warrant should not have been granted. There’s not a chance in hell that it would have been in Vancouver, but recognizing that Calgary is a different jurisdiction, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say the grounds were thin.

Now we know of this memo from Hornby which says that Vernon altered his notebook to aid in obtaining the warrant. So, we go from thin grounds to fabricated evidence and six years later the Calgary Police Service still won’t say they are sorry for forcibly entering a family’s home late at night, ordering a family to the floor at gunpoint and finding absolutely nothing.

A review of this file has since been ordered and Inspector Brian Whitelaw has now laid a variety of service offences against a number of officers involved in the obtaining and executing the warrant. Those allegations have yet to be heard and certainly those officers, including Vernon, Hornby and Vernon’s supervisor, Sgt. Carl DeSantis, who counseled Vernon in how to put together his first ITO, are entitled to mount a defence.

Having said that, the stench from this just will not go away unless and until Killian Constant gets some answers and finally hears an apology. And every day that passes without that diminishes all the good things the hard-working members of the Calgary Police Service do day in and day out.

Leo Knight

Written by Leo Knight

June 28, 2006 at 11:52 pm

Posted in Crime & Punishment