Oriola also recommended an overhaul of the educational and training requirements for police officers. “We continue to treat policing as a set of manual skills that can be done with a Grade 12 education and six months of basic training, which is exactly what they get,” he said. “The results are showing.”
He says ASIRT is the second busiest organization of its kind in Canada. It handles 25.4 per cent of all cases of police shootings and killings of civilians in the country, fewer only than the Special Investigations Unit in Ontario. On a per capita basis, the province should not be ahead of Quebec or British Columbia.
He says far more training and education is required, as is an emphasis on hiring psychologically stable people. He also says the biggest problem may be the lack of consequences for wrongdoers. “The problem is the protectionist racket that is constantly woven around those who do in fact get involved in brutality to civilians,” he says.
The panel also included Dan Behiels, a former EPS officer who alleged corruption within the force and has since been drummed out of it. What struck him about the documentary was that, in every instance, there were other police officers present, but none came forward to allege abuse. “Video evidence is helpful, but it’s a stroke of luck,” he says. “We can’t rely on it. The only chance we do have for justice is the consistent reporting from other police officers when they witness wrongdoing.”
He highlights the importance of whistleblower legislation to protect those who come forward, noting that municipal police officers, such as those in Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat, are exempted from the current legislation. “They have no legal foundation to prevent retaliation,” he says. “Without it, every police officer that comes forward knows that they will pay with their reputation. More often than not they’ll lose their families. Many turn to suicide. They know it’s not worth it.”