City CEO: Lethbridge police knew problems existed before I took job

(CNN) — Lethbridge’s police chief says he knew the department had issues before taking on the position two years ago, CNN affiliate Global News reported.

Marc Dionne was hired in 2017 to lead the Lethbridge Police Service in Alberta, Canada. Over the past few years, the department has been plagued by allegations of excessive force, frequent sickouts and complaints of harassment, including for the murder of a civilian.

After a CNN investigation published last week showed that police have been using force on minors in some situations, the city announced last week that it was holding a meeting for residents Monday night to update them on the police actions in light of the investigation.

“It’s very unfortunate there’s been some very public turmoil and scandal, but we’re taking that to heart, and we’re addressing it head on,” Dionne said on the “Anderson Cooper 360˚” news show.

Since he started the position, Dionne said that he has “gotten to know that I was aware of these challenges before I ever took this job, and I was able to grapple with them. I’m working to change them.”

“I’m aware of the impact of the controversy on the community, and I acknowledge and apologize that I haven’t been able to turn things around fast enough,” he said.

The Lethbridge Police Service is investigating allegations of excessive force and harassment within the department, but Dionne said he has previously received praise for not only coming to the organization, but also for how he has transformed and strengthened operations.

When asked about possible solutions, Dionne said the department is in the process of decentralizing its operations, focusing on cutting down on response times while also investing in ways to engage with different generations of police officers.

“The future of policing’s going to require us to think differently,” he said.

The Lethbridge Police Service also plans to hire a chief communications officer and other management positions in the coming months.

“These changes would go a long way in transforming our relationship with the community,” Dionne said.

In July, the Lethbridge Police Service announced that it would use a program to help deal with juvenile offenders after an investigation found officers used force on minors in some cases.

CNN previously reported that officers took blows to their legs and knees in some instances, leaving them hurt and frustrated. Police told CNN that it wasn’t uncommon for officers to be made to carry a juvenile in a wheelchair on their back and a deep bruise on the leg.

The Lethbridge Police Service also fired an officer for excessive force in April 2017. Canadian broadcast network CBC reported that the officer had punched a detainee eight times in the face with two fists and a full-strength flashlight during a 16-hour detainment.

The Lethbridge Police Service said it made the decision after conducting a review of the incident, which was reported by the Mounties.

In a statement, the Lethbridge Police Service said, “A proper review … has determined that the actions of our officer were inappropriate, and to the outside observer appear excessive and unreasonable.”

CNN previously reported that a group of 11 civilians filed a sexual-harassment complaint against Dionne last month, accusing him of inappropriate remarks and allegations of stalking and hugging a subordinate.

The officer in the alleged harassment was charged with sexual assault in July. Dionne has denied any wrongdoing.

In July, the American Civil Liberties Union released a report on police body cameras in which it detailed several examples of officers using force to punish people who were impaired or resisting arrest.

Dionne previously told Global News that it’s his responsibility to prevent a similar incident from happening in Lethbridge.

“Our responsibility is to ensure that there are no circumstances where the public feels unsafe, and if there is, that we act quickly and actively,” he said.

“I know there’s still more that we need to do,” he said. “But we’re doing everything we can do to improve our relationship with the community, because it’s in their best interest.”

Leave a Comment