Shannon Phillips, Former Alberta Environment Minister, Monitored by Police

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jerrym
Shannon Phillips, Former Alberta Environment Minister, Monitored by Police

Documents reveal that former NDP Alberta Environment Minister Shannon Phillips was monitored by Lethbridge police in a fishing expedition for information to attack her because she had proposed environmental policies that they were personally opposed to. There is also a report that there was a plan to drug her in a local bar. This kind of behaviour needs to be strongly disciplined because if there are no or weak consequences when it is discovered, it will fuel even more of this kind of activity, of which I am sure there are numerous other examples not yet out in the open. Furthermore, with the police tending strongly towards right-wing ideology and governments, most of those unjustifiably monitored, whether politicians or not, are on the left. I also suspect environmentalists to be a top target. A friend of mine was banned from the US during the Trump era with his only problem being he had done a PhD in environmental physics and spoken about the risks of global warming. 

Over the last four years, Lethbridge NDP MLA Shannon Phillips has had suspicions that some members of the southern Alberta city's police force have been monitoring her. A cache of newly released documents shows she was right.

Back in 2017, when Phillips was Alberta's environment minister, Lethbridge police officers took surreptitious photographs of her at a diner and posted them anonymously on the internet. But Phillips believed there was additional evidence she was being watched. So in August 2020, she put in a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (known as FOIP) on herself and the Lethbridge Police.

The result, which she received late last year, was 9,308 pages on a compact disc. Almost all of it is blacked out in full or in part, but the several hundred unredacted pages released and viewed exclusively by CBC News contain startling revelations.

Over the course of 11 months in 2018, Phillips's name was searched eight times by five different police officers, one of whom is now retired, as well as one civilian employee.

Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu said Monday afternoon that he was "outraged" by the report, and the fact that it happened "to an elected official is even more disturbing." Madu said that "the men and women of law enforcement possess a great deal of power, and all Albertans should be outraged when that power is abused." The minister said he would be meeting with Lethbridge's chief of police and the chair of the Lethbridge Police Commission on Tuesday to discuss the matter. ...

The searches revealed in the FOIP request were "a fishing expedition, for reasons of snooping or wanting to engage in gossip," Phillips said in a recent interview with CBC News. "There is no reason associated with the search in those records." The FOIP request also revealed that a complainant told police they believed Phillips was meant to be drugged at a Lethbridge bar in 2016 — an allegation that police never shared with Phillips. ...

The records indicate that:

  • On Jan. 9, 2018, Phillips's name was searched by civilian employee Alyson Dunsmore and one police file was accessed.
  • On Feb. 9, 2018, now-retired Const. Ross Bond searched Phillips's name three times and opened two police files with Phillips's name.
  • On March 5, 2018, Const. Joel Odorski searched Phillips's name and opened one police file.
  • That same day, Deputy Chief Scott Woods and Staff Sgt. Peter Christos also searched Phillips's name and opened police files.
  • On Nov. 29, 2018, Const. Derek Riddell searched Phillips's name and opened a "person entry," which means he did not access a specific police file.                                       

Both Woods and Christos are associated with the Professional Standards Unit, but Lethbridge Police will not confirm if there was an active investigation that required them to access Phillips's records. There is no investigative or professional standards purpose listed in the documents. ...

Michael Bates, Phillips's lawyer, wondered just how far the information obtained in the searches might have gone. "If they were [done] for a personal reason, a non-law enforcement reason, what happened with the information? Where was it spread? How did it get used?" Bates said he hopes the ASIRT investigation tracks what exactly was done with Phillips's personal information. "Those are really key, important pieces to try and get to the bottom of." The searches of Phillips's name are not the only explosive details the documents revealed. While going through the documents, Phillips was chilled by a March 2016 complaint made to police by a person whose name was redacted. The person told police that six days prior, they believed they had been "drugged while drinking at the Owl Bar," a reference to a popular pub in Lethbridge. ...

Phillips said she wasn't told anything about the alleged drugging. Despite being listed as a complainant on the police report, she only learned of the unsettling allegations while combing through the documents released to her under FOIP. "So this was March of 2016 that this evidently happened," said Phillips. "I'm listed as a witness in the police report and I find out about it on December 8th, 2020?"

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/lethbridge-police-service-search-...

jerrym

Shannon Phillips and Rachel Notley discuss the revelations of police monitoring of her below. The Lethbridge police response of no comment because the situation is under investigation is the typical non-answer that simply perpetuates illegal police activity in the future.

Phillips says she put in a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) last year, to give her and her lawyer a better understanding of what they were dealing with in relation to alleged unauthorized surveillance of the MLA by LPS.

“I got that freedom of information request back in December, it was more than 9,000 pages, mostly redacted, which doesn’t at all seem normal when you’re doing just a simple freedom of information request on yourself,” Phillips said. ...

A CBC report stated that over the course of 11 months, Phillips’ name was searched eight times by five former and current LPS officers, and a civilian employee. Phillips confirmed those details to Global News on Monday, saying that LPS deputy chief Scott Woods was among the officers listed in the FOIP information. She added that many of the searches of her name did not include a lawful reason for doing so.

“Accessing someone’s records for no law enforcement purpose is unlawful, and it’s deeply concerning,” Phillips said. ...

The Lethbridge-West MLA says the second thing she found troubling dated back to 2016. “There was a record in there of a complaint that was made about something that happened at a pub in 2016, of which I had no awareness,” she said. “Four-and-a-half years later I’m opening up this file for the first time and I see that someone complained that they had reasonable grounds to believe that they had been given a drink that had a drug in it, and they also had reasonable grounds to believe that that drink had been intended for me.” ...

Phillips says she keeps an extensive calendar and was able to check back to that week in 2016, she believes that she was in fact at the Lethbridge bar with members of both her Edmonton and Lethbridge staff. “The Lethbridge Police Service — just as all police services do — have a duty to warn, and they didn’t uphold that duty, and that revelation was shocking to me,” she said. ...

“All of this has had a tremendously corrosive effect on people’s willingness to engage in the democratic process,” Phillips said. “And I want no one to have any hesitation to do that because of police intimidation or surveillance, or any of those things.”

The Lethbridge Police Service was asked for comment by Global News on Monday and the following statement was given: “The Lethbridge Police Service is unable to provide comment on the matter as it is part of an ongoing investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.”

NDP leader Rachel Notley mirrored her colleague’s comments at the Alberta Legislature on Monday, citing a lack of trust in Lethbridge with LPS. “No matter what, it is fundamentally important that police earn and maintain the respect and the trust of the people that they serve, and this is obviously a very troubling revelation,” Notley said. Notley says she believes consequences need to be seen at the end of the ASIRT investigation, to begin to repair the damage done. “We need the police service to restore trust in itself within that community, within the processes that have been in place,” Notley said. “There needs to be an opportunity for the system to fix itself, because if it doesn’t then we have a real problem.”

jerrym

What was the revolutionary environmental policy that had the Lethbridge police so upset that they believed they had the right to monitor Shannon Phillips and plan to drug her?

It was "about restricting off-road vehicles in the popular Castle Park wilderness area, however, Phillips said the meeting was about reintroducing buffalo into Banff National Park. ... Both [police]men were avid outdoorsmen who frequented the area in question and were against Phillips’ ideas." (https://globalnews.ca/news/7630884/asirt-lethbridge-police-shannon-phill...)

 

 

jerrym

David Climenhaga has called for a judicial inquiry to investigate the Lethbridge police for their spying on former NDP Environment Minister Shannon Phillips because he has no faith in the Alberta's police investigative agency or the United Conservative Party's willingness to carry out a complete and meaningful investigation. I agree. 

The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) may be an OK place to start the investigation into the concerted effort by the Lethbridge Police Service (LPS) to spy on Shannon Phillips, a local woman who just happened to be the environment minister in the NDP government that led Alberta from 2015 to 2019.

ASIRT is the investigative body that proves time and again Alberta's police are well trained, completely professional, and almost never shoot at anyone who doesn't need shooting at. Either that, or maybe they come to police misconduct already inclined to find that sworn police officers did nothing wrong.

Whatever, ASIRT's conclusions are unlikely to be very reassuring or persuade many people something isn't deeply wrong inside the Lethbridge police department that extends far beyond a few "bad apples" in the shocking circumstances uncovered by Phillips and her staff and made public to a national audience Sunday evening by the CBC.

No, to get to the bottom of whatever was happening in the southern Alberta city of 93,000 over the past four years will require an independent inquiry run by a judge.

Unfortunately, Alberta Justice Minister Kaycee Madu's expressions of outrage notwithstanding, that's about as likely to happen in a province run by Jason Kenney's United Conservative Party. ...

After all, if this is how independent police forces in Alberta operate, it's not going to help Premier Kenney's campaign to get rid of the RCMP, which will have been investigating voting irregularities in the UCP's 2017 leadership race for two years next Monday, and replace it with his own loyal provincial police force.

Sunday's CBC story outlines how, among other things, sworn Lethbridge police officers took surreptitious photographs of Phillips at a restaurant meeting with a well-known environmentalist and posted them anonymously on the internet.

More serious than this kind of Keystone Koppery, however, was the apparent fishing expedition "without investigative purposes" by LPS members that included illegal searches of government databases to see if they could turn up any embarrassing gossip about the Lethbridge-West MLA or people she was meeting.

This has the distinct feeling of a political campaign by the police against their local MLA. Were they just doing it for fun, or because they were part of the frequently violent and destructive off-road-vehicle crowd that infests Alberta's woodlands? That group was furious at times during the NDP's years in power for its plans to restrict off-roading in parks.

Two officers said to be associated with that bunch were investigated by a neighbouring municipal police department and received demotions, a gentle tap on the wrist. Last month, the Law Enforcement Review Board called the investigation "tainted, flawed and grossly inadequate" and gave Phillips the right to appeal. You can depend on it, she will.

Or were officers working for someone outside the small police force? Did they have political connections in Lethbridge? Did they have the tacit approval of senior officers on the force? And who else gets subjected to the same treatment by Lethbridge police?

These questions and many more like them need to be asked in a venue where answers can be compelled and be subject to meaningful penalties if they are not truthful. That doesn't sound like ASIRT.

None of this would have come to light had Phillips herself not been a tough fighter who has the knowhow to push back effectively. She filed Freedom of Information requests seeking LPS documents with her name on them. The result was more than 9,000 pages of mostly redacted documents, but with enough in them to give a hint of what the force was up to.

This kind of behaviour directly threatens our democracy, and Albertans deserve answers they can trust.

https://rabble.ca/blogs/bloggers/alberta-diary/2021/03/judicial-inquiry-...

jerrym

The investigation has now led to the suspension of five Lethbridge police officers. 

Five police officers in Lethbridge, Alta., — including one who was already disciplined for spying on a local cabinet minister — have been suspended with pay as part of an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate images, according to an email obtained by CBC News.

The investigation has been dubbed internally as "MemeGate," according to sources with knowledge of the situation. Several memes were circulated among Lethbridge Police Service officers which were disrespectful to LPS brass and NDP MLA Shannon Phillips, who was the minister of environment and parks at the time, according to those sources, who spoke to CBC News on condition of anonymity. 

The investigation began in 2018. Last week, Lethbridge police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh sent an all-staff email announcing the suspensions.

"As of today, five employees have been relieved of their duties," wrote Mehdizadeh.

"This file will be damaging to LPS, however, we need to ensure transparency in the process for public interest and also the integrity of the organization." ...

This is the latest revelation involving Phillips and the Lethbridge police. One of the suspended officers is Const. Keon Woronuk, who is also one of two officers recently disciplined for a 2018 spying incident involving Phillips.

Last week, CBC News reported that five other officers — including a deputy chief and a staff sergeant — and a civilian employee accessed Phillips' personal information on police databases when she was environment minister with no apparent investigative justification, according to internal documents. ...

The Lethbridge Police Service has seen its share of controversy recently. Two officers — Woronuk and Sgt. Jason Carrier — were recently disciplined for spying involving Phillips. ...

Woronuk and Carrier photographed Phillips as she met two people at a Lethbridge diner. The photos were posted online with a caption reading "everyone's favourite hypocrite." After the meal, Woronuk ran a search on the licence plate of Phillips' guests and attempted to follow them before he lost the vehicle at a red light.

Woronuk and Carrier are off-road enthusiasts who opposed the then NDP government's plan for phasing out off-highway vehicle use on designated trails in Castle Provincial Park. Both officers were disciplined and demoted for their misconduct.

Phillips is appealing after the Law Enforcement Review Board called the disciplinary process "tainted, flawed and grossly inadequate."

Mehdizadeh called the allegations against the force's employees who accessed Phillips' personal information on police databases "very serious" and said he was committed to fully co-operating with Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) investigators, who are looking into it.

https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/calgary/lethbridge-police-meme-investigat...

Mobo2000

This is a pretty shocking story, thanks for bringing the details here.    I recently finished Edward Snowden's book, - he describes how common and typical it was for police and intelligence officers to use intelligence databases for their own purposes, from passing around nudes to getting addresses or financial details of people they had an issue with.    As our own intelligence and policing agencies get more sophisticated with their collection, and Canadians get more comfortable with our growing security state, we can expect to see more of this sort of abuse.