Edmonton police officer reprimanded for leaving Safeway without paying for food

An Edmonton police officer has admitted to professional misconduct after twice walking out of grocery stores without paying for his meals.

The constable was charged with two counts of theft under $5,000 after walking out of two Safeway stores — in Terra Losa and Westmount — with deli food which he had not purchased.

A loss prevention officer who stopped the officer on March 23, 2016, said he had walked out with an order of chicken tenders and a Fresca valued at about $4.55.

The charges were later withdrawn after the constable completed an “alternative measures” program. In addition to the theft charges, he was charged with two counts of discreditable conduct and one count of insubordination under the Police Act, which governs the conduct of police officers.

During a disciplinary hearing, the officer claimed he had no memory of what happened due to severe anxiety issues.

The constable, who joined the service on Feb. 9, 2004, and has no prior disciplinary record, is not named in the Dec. 13 disciplinary decision.

Fred Kamins, a retired RCMP officer who presided over the hearing, found a reprimand — rather than a suspension or pay reduction — was warranted under the circumstances.

“I find that this proposed penalty satisfies the public interest, is consistent with the sanctions administered in similar cases and, more importantly, is appropriate and reasonable,” he wrote.

According to an agreed statement of facts, the officer walked into the Terra Losa Centre Safeway on March 22, 2016, wearing civilian clothes. He ordered some food from the deli counter. While he had money to pay for the items, he “inadvertently” left without paying, the disciplinary decision reads.

A loss prevention officer identified as Mr. CC said he saw the officer leave but was unable to track him down in time.

The next day, the officer did the same thing at the Westmount Safeway, where Mr. CC happened to be working that day. This time, he was able to confront the officer and place him under arrest.

The constable was charged with two counts of theft under $5,000, which were eventually withdrawn after he completed an alternative measures program in early 2017.

The hearing heard the officer was under significant stress — including over the recent death of his father — for which he was receiving counselling at the time.

At the time of the incidents, he was working as a community liaison constable in northwest Edmonton.

A subsequent psychological assessment found he was suffering from a “significant anxiety disorder” which “would undermine (the officer’s) cognitive processes, causing him to become forgetful.”

He said he did not remember not paying for the food, but “takes full responsibility for his actions.” He eventually admitted to the two counts of professional misconduct, while the charge of insubordination was withdrawn.

Kamins said he weighed the officer’s misconduct against his remorse and his mental state at the time, as well as volunteer work completed since the incidents.

Dan Scott, the constable’s legal counsel, described the case as a “near miss” for the officer.

“(The constable) is a good officer who made a mistake and has accepted responsibility without reservation,” the decision reads, adding he had committed to a treatment plan.

“It appears that the misconduct was isolated.”

Officer’s name should be disclosed, says lawyer

Edmonton police typically release the names of officers found responsible for serious misconduct. But in cases where an officer was only issued a reprimand, their names are left out of disciplinary decisions.

Defence lawyer Tom Engel, a frequent police critic, took issue with the policy.

He said the policeman could be called upon to provide evidence in court, and that people need to be aware about his reliability as a witness.

“Anybody who’s dealing with that police officer in the criminal justice system needs to know that there’s an issues with (his) cognitive abilities,” he said.

“It would be something that the Crown and defence lawyers would want to explore — how reliable is this person’s memory?”

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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