Published:June 3, 2021
Calgary police officers could use some sensitivity training, a judge suggested Thursday, in throwing out 11 charges, including weapons offences, against a suspect.
Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux said the conduct of police toward Latef Reakwon Tag El Din during his arrest showed both a lack of empathy and compassion.
Lamoureux had earlier ruled officers breached Tag El Din’s Charter rights by refusing him medical attention for injuries he suffered from a canine unit dog at the time of his arrest.
And she said in her written decision Thursday the conduct was so egregious that a judicial stay of the charges, which included possession of a prohibited or restricted weapon and possession of a loaded handgun, was warranted.
“In 2021, the paramilitary model of policing is no longer relevant to the needs of the community,” Lamoureux said, in accepting defence lawyer Andrea Urquhart’s argument the charges against her client should be thrown out.
“Police officers must be educated with respect to more sophisticated communication skills and knowledge in order to permit them to deal with citizens who are in distress, whether or not those citizens are in custody or in the community.”
The judge said the treatment of Tag El Din indicates a need for greater police training in how to deal with suspects.
“The court concludes that the officers in this case are displaying issues of lack of empathy and compassion, which cry out for further education by police educators and police colleges,” Lamoureux said.
Tag El Din was arrested Nov. 23, 2019, for violating conditions of his release from an outstanding attempted murder charge after he was spotted in a convenience store.
When approached by an officer, Tag El Din fled, but was quickly tracked down by the officer’s dog.
He suffered significant injuries, including multiple abrasions to his face and puncture wounds to his left arm.
When Tag El Din was taken to police headquarters for processing, he began pleading for medical aid.
It was during this time, Lamoureux found based on video and audio from body worn cameras, that the officers fell short of the professional conduct required of them.
“The general gist of the conversations recorded among the police officers . . . is one of dismissiveness and utter disregard for the well-being of the accused,” she said in her decision last October finding Tag El Din’s rights had been violated.
“There is laughter, sarcasm, song and judgment. All of this conduct by police is completely inappropriate and unprofessional.”
At one point Tag El Din said he was dying, to which an officer responded, “we are all dying,” the judge noted.
Tag El Din’s attempted murder charge was subsequently withdrawn by the Crown.