After calls to share the video, the Edmonton Police Service released surveillance footage confirming the series of events last week in the inner city which led to a woman with a knife being arrested.
Last Thursday afternoon, a 12-second video was recorded by a bystander of an interaction with a woman and an Edmonton Police Service member on 100 Street between 105 and 106 avenues.
Global News and other news organizations submitted requests for police to release surveillance footage showing the events more clearly, but those requests were denied until Thursday, when the video was played at a police commission meeting.
Edmonton criminal defence lawyer Tom Engel, who is known for calling out police conduct, originally raised concerns to Global News last week, questioning whether the woman was holding a knife since he said it was unclear in the original video. He called for a public inquiry.
The newly released surveillance video shows, from two different angles, two women on the sidewalk across from the Hope Mission in Chinatown having what appears to be an argument.
One of the women had a knife in her waistband and in the video, is seen taking it out and holding it while interacting with the other woman.
The two women stepped off the sidewalk and into the middle of 100 Street, where the silent video shows them continue to gesture at and address each other.
A minute or so later, an EPS cruiser is seen turning off 106 Avenue toward the women, who begin to walk away from each other as the officer gets out.
The woman with the knife is seen walking past the officer without pausing.
Police said the woman claimed to be a member of a gang and refused to drop the knife.
That’s when the officer gave the woman a shove to the ground and arrested her — a move Edmonton Police Association president Mike Elliott said was safest for all involved due to the weapon.
In its statement last week, the EPS said the officer was faced with a decision on how much force to use, given the woman was armed, and determined “pushing her to the ground would require the least amount of force possible to allow him to safely arrest the suspect.”
Elliott said the other options were for the officer to pull his firearm, use his Taser on the woman, or strike her with his baton.
The woman was arrested for possession of a weapon dangerous to the public but in the end, the EPS said charges were not laid.
A statement from EPS corporate communications on Monday said “intoxication was considered a factor in the weapons complaint” and there was no “willing complainant,” so no charges were laid. Instead, the woman’s outstanding warrants were processed, she was given a meal and later released.
Police said given all the facts, they believe the way the arrest was handled was fair.
“There are numerous ways to deal with situations like that — unfortunately, the reality is such situations occur on our streets probably every day,” Deputy Chief Devin Laforce said Thursday after the monthly police commission meeting at Edmonton City Hall.
“So once the officer dealt with the public safety risk, then it’s now managing the offender or subjects, so it was certainly within his authorities to make that arrest,” he said.
“But then afterwards, the subject was intoxicated, had to eat. There… (are) some wellness considerations. There were warrants to be executed, and that being said, as well, the complainant wasn’t interested in pursuing charges.
“In which case, it was more about managing the welfare of that offender so that they wouldn’t reoffend again, and the (risk to) public safety was… deemed to have disappeared.”
EPS Staff Sgt. Joe Tassone spoke to the training officers receive. He said race or gender do not come into play — interactions are based on the level of threat to both the responding officers and the surrounding public.
“(When) we go into situations, we need to assess what’s occurring and then control that situation as quick as we can, so that there is no risk to the public — or at least eliminate it as quick as we can,” he said.
Nina Laderoute is an Edmontonian who protested the arrest and was at Thursday’s meeting. She still believes the shove was excessive.
“If they think that this is OK, that committing assault is OK, I think we should be questioning that,” she said.
Jodi Calahoo-Stonehouse sits on the police commission and said the situation highlights the danger vulnerable people face on the streets.
“Why is that level of violence with Indigenous women acceptable in this city?” she asked during the meeting.
“Why are so many young women houseless, addicted, in mental health crises and carrying knives? These are really the questions that we need to be asking ourselves.”
The shorter video recorded on a cellphone quickly made the rounds on the internet and was shared widely, including by some on city council.
The interaction triggered calls for more accountability and transparency when it comes to the city’s police force.
Judith Gale with The Bear Clan Patrol Edmonton Beaver Hills House, a community-based organization that provides food and support to vulnerable people, called for officers to wear body cameras and cruisers to be equipped with dash cameras.
University of Alberta criminology professor Temitope Oriola said the situation highlighted the challenges of law enforcement in the digital age, but added there should have been more effort to talk to the woman before using force to disarm her.
After reviewing the incident, police said last week there were no grounds for an investigation by the EPS Professional Standards Branch.
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