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Edmonton detective speaks out after colleague disciplined for 'warrantless search'

Edmonton Journal logo Edmonton Journal 2020-04-30 Jonny Wakefield
a man wearing a hat: Sgt. Ashley Hayward, seen during his police graduation in 2011, was disciplined for conducting what a retired judge called a © John Lucas Sgt. Ashley Hayward, seen during his police graduation in 2011, was disciplined for conducting what a retired judge called a

An Edmonton police detective says a decision to discipline a colleague for his actions during a curfew check could lead to “de-policing.”

Sgt. Ashley Hayward was found guilty of three counts of unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority under the Police Act, after a complaint about a 2017 incident at an Alberta Avenue-area home.

Hayward and a colleague, Det. Daniel Behiels, were at the home to make sure one of the residents, John Jacknife, was abiding by a curfew.

A retired Court of Queen’s Bench justice who presided over the disciplinary hearing found Hayward crossed a line when he looked around the house, peering into a bedroom closet and speaking to two women he believed were in distress.

The former justice, M.A. Binder, said while Hayward’s actions were “well-intentioned,” they were nevertheless “unlawful” and amounted to a “warrantless search under the guise of a curfew check.”

The sergeant was given a formal reprimand Friday and ordered to brush up on his powers of search.

Behiels, who was cleared of the two disciplinary charges he faced, took issue with the decision in a Friday email to Postmedia.

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Stressing he was not speaking on behalf of the Edmonton Police Service or the police association, Behiels said Binder’s decision to discipline Hayward could have “unintended consequences,” especially in the inner-city communities where he polices.

“It is my fear that this ruling will lead to fewer opportunities for … vulnerable people to seek help from police,” Behiels wrote. He also raised concerns about potential “ de-policing ” — when officers scale back interactions with the public out of fear of being disciplined, or recorded and publicly shamed online.

Behiels added he hopes Hayward appeals, saying the decision could discourage officers from engaging in “consensual conversation for fear of being branded as abusing their authority.”

Preston Cardinal, who rented the home near 114 Avenue and 94 Street, filed a formal complaint with Edmonton police after Behiels, Hayward and other officers attended the property on the evening of Aug. 16, 2017.

a house covered in snow:  A police officer in Edmonton was found guilty of three offences under the Police Act on March 31, 2020, for conducting a search at a house on 94 Street near 114 Avenue while checking that a man was abiding by his curfew conditions. © Larry Wong A police officer in Edmonton was found guilty of three offences under the Police Act on March 31, 2020, for conducting a search at a house on 94 Street near 114 Avenue while checking that a man was abiding by his curfew conditions.

Cardinal was the home’s head tenant and was allowing his uncle Jacknife to stay there. During the hearing, Hayward claimed Cardinal and Jacknife were members of the Red Alert street gang (Cardinal said he’s moved on from gang life. Jacknife died in 2018).

Hayward and Behiels arrived at the home around 11:30 p.m., a half-hour after a probation officer and another police officer stopped by to check on Jacknife.

Binder said in his March 31 decision that Behiels heard “activity” inside and saw a man carrying a “long object in a blanket” into the main floor bedroom. Another man opened the door and walked away without saying anything. Cardinal and Jacknife then entered through the rear door.

Jacknife invited the officers inside over his nephew’s objections. During their discussion, Hayward looked in the main floor bedroom, saw the closet was clear, and checked on a woman inside. He then called out to a “tearful” woman upstairs and was invited up to check on her. Hayward also directed a constable to keep an eye out for other people in the home.

Behiels called his conversation with Jacknife “cordial” and “productive.” He said Hayward was invited into the home with him, saying he “stands convicted, despite no search having been conducted.”

He noted Binder “admonished” Hayward, who was “otherwise lawfully placed,” for “asking an emotionally distressed female also in the home if she wanted to speak with him.”

Behiels said he did not seek to “discredit” the police Professional Standards Branch, the investigation or punishments for officers “who do abuse their authority. I simply wanted to highlight the unintended consequences of policies that do not consider the human element of protecting the public and those most vulnerable.”

Erika Norheim, Cardinal’s lawyer, argued there is a “tremendous power imbalance” when police speak to people who are on probation.

“Rarely will these individuals provide their informed consent to police entry into their homes,” she said in an email.

“People who are caught up with the criminal justice system are generally terrified that the police will arrest them and therefore will not protest even when police conduct is unlawful or unwelcome, and I believe that is what occurred in this case.”

The Edmonton Police Service declined to comment.

jwakefield@postmedia.com

twitter.com/jonnywakefield

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