Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The untouchables [updated]

[Originally posted on April 17] Today we are reminded, once again, how the system as a whole ensures that police can operate like lowlife thugs without any fear of serious consequences--if consequences are even suffered.

This week's poster child for the cop culture of impunity is Constable Mike Wasylyshen of the Edmonton Police Force, er, Service. Mike, the son of former Edmonton police chief Bob Wasylyshen, is still a young man--33 years old, a ten-year veteran of the EPS. But he's packed a fair bit of adventure into that short span.

There was his encounter back in 2002 with a 16-year-old aboriginal kid, Randy Fryingpan, who'd passed out in the back of a car. Mike Tasered him six times in 66 seconds to wake him up, and then knocked out one of his teeth by smashing his face on the ground with the butt of his weapon. A judge dismissed a subsequent breach of probation charge again Fryingpan, citing his treatment at Mike's hands as "cruel and unusual."

Said Judge Jack Easton:

The treatment of the accused by the application of the Taser and the use of the fist or butt end of the Taser gun to the body of the accused driving him to the ground causing a broken tooth clearly indicated to me an excessive use of force and a clear violation of the charter rights of this accused.

The witnesses other than the officers appeared disgusted by an obvious overuse of force....The scene was clearly under control and the deployment of a Taser absolutely unnecessary.

But the Crown claimed that there was no evidence to support criminal charges (which brings the Robert Dziekanski case immediately to mind), and the acting police chief at the time, Darryl da Costa, exonerated Mike completely, pointing to the Crown's decision and stating that there was no evidence that would warrant discipline against the officer. A plea by Fryingpan's mother for an outside investigation was rebuffed.

Fast-forward to 2003. Mike is dressed down by a provincial court judge for using deception to obtain a search warrant. Evidence in a drug case had to be tossed out due to Mike's "carelessness bordering on indifference." Another internal investigation. No discipline.

But this rising star was not yet at the top of his game. In 2005, off-duty and in a drunken state, he picked a fight with a man on crutches, swore at him, called him a "cripple" and beat him. He was pulled off by his buddies, but followed the man he had attacked, who by that time had been joined by two friends. They did the righteous thing and put Mike on the ground, where they proceeded to give him a taste of his own medicine. Two private security officers tried to break up the fight: Mike punched one of his rescuers and threatened to burn down the other's house.

Somehow the Crown thought that charges were warranted
this time. It has taken more than three years to bring this matter to trial, but the system, by golly, delivered.

Mike has been fined $500.

Oh yes, and one of those "internal police disciplinary hearing" thingies has been scheduled, too. No doubt they'll throw the book at him.

UPDATE: (August 18). Better late than never. Thanks to the determined efforts of Fryingpan's mother, Wasylyshen will at long last face disciplinary charges for Tasering an unconscious teen. Alberta's Law Enforcement Review Board has ordered Edmonton Police Chief Mike Boyd to charge him with using excessive force, and insubordination. [H/t reader russski]

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