Calgary Police Commission investigating handling of historic Sean Chu allegations

Reaction continues to pour in about what's next for Calgary city council and how it can function when the mayor-elect and some newly elected councillors say they can't work with ward 4 councillor Sean Chu. So, what's next? Lauren Pullen reports.

The Calgary Police Commission and Calgary Police Service are hoping to learn how the police’s decades-old handling of sexual assault allegations against Coun. Sean Chu could have been improved.

A CBC News report first revealed the Law Enforcement Review Board proceedings investigating allegations of impropriety with a minor when Chu was a CPS officer in 1997.

Commission chair Bonita Croft and CPS Chief Mark Neufeld spoke after the commission’s public meeting on Tuesday afternoon.

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A civilian oversight body, the police commission will go through its public complaint director to look at the processes used to investigate complaints against officers and if there are opportunities for improvement, “even though it was quite some time ago.”

“The review will let us look at whether there are any other matters, any other things that can be learned from this case that might still be able to be acted on going forward to improve matters for future cases of that or other types,” Croft said

How allegations against a police officer were handled in the late 90s have changed since then, the CPS chief said.

“What would happen is we would have investigators from other police services going to other cities to conduct investigations, which is time-consuming,” Neufeld said, adding it would add to those investigators’ existing workload.

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, whose mandate includes investigating “serious or sensitive allegations of police misconduct,” was created in 2008 following advocacy from the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police, Neufeld said.

He said he’d like to see investigations into police conduct have more independence, with the Chu incident showing why.

“What’s come out very clearly is that people are uncomfortable with the notion of police investigating police in serious cases such as this one,” the police chief said.

In an Oct. 20 statement, Neufeld said he had reviewed all documents involving the former CPS officer. The documentation included transcripts of disciplinary hearings, investigative records and administrative tribunals.

Tuesday, he said pulling those documents from archive was a “bit of a challenge” as they predated the CPS digitized archive. And he’s not sure what of those documents can be released due to publication bans or other confidentiality considerations.

“It is an interesting question because you’ve got to balance the public interest against the privacy interests of employees in employee related issues like this,” the CPS chief said.

Neufeld previously confirmed Chu had been found guilty of discreditable conduct under the Police Act in 2003 for the 1997 incident.

In his first address to the media after the municipal election, Chu told reporters last week that he and the girl met at a licensed establishment and they “engaged in some consensual touching” at his home. He also claimed that he didn’t know she was underage.

Chu also said he had a letter of reprimand on his file that later was removed.

Neufeld said the expungement practice continues under the Act.

Serious discipline remains on an officer’s record for five years. Records for less-than-serious discipline remain on an officer’s record for between one and three years, at the chief’s discretion.

“It’s important to know that the expungement comes into place if there are no other entries on the officer’s service record of discipline,” Neufeld clarified. “And the idea is an officer, if they got involved in an incident and it was a one-off and they were disciplined, they could rehabilitate and they could move past that issue.

“But if, during that period of time that the conviction was on your record, if you had a subsequent entry, then that issue would stay on or the previous conviction would stay on, and that would be to promote the issues around progressive discipline.”

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Croft also announced her departure from the commission on Tuesday, saying she made the decision weeks ago due to increasing work commitments. The outgoing commission chair said that decision would not affect the work ahead of the commission to investigate the police’s handling of the incident from 1997.

“The review that we had made a statement about last week — that we are going to undertake to look at the process that was followed there to see what, if anything, can be learned from that — will, of course, continue whether I am on commission or not.”

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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