Watching the watchmen - Metro US

Watching the watchmen

Police are under scrutiny across the province, stretching the lawmakers’ watchdog team thin.

“We’re meeting all the demands placed upon us at this time,” said Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) director Clifton Purvis. “But we’re not playing checkers over here — we’re busy.”

ASIRT is actively investigating three separate, recent episodes, in which police officers shot three suspects, killing two, and seriously injuring another.

Shawn Michael Price, 36, was shot and killed in Edmonton’s inner city by a rookie police officer on May 10. She fired two bullets, striking him in the hip and chest, after Price allegedly resisted arrest.

He was unarmed, but may have been reaching for another officer’s weapon, Purvis said. The officers were not carrying Tasers at the time of the shooting.

And on Wednesday, police in Calgary shot a man believed to be armed with a knife. He was rushed to hospital in serious condition. The incident came days after a Calgary tactical officer shot and killed a man who was pointing a shotgun at police. All three investigations are in the preliminary stages, and could take up to six months before charges are laid against officers, or the files are closed, Purvis said.

If the team is tasked with tackling another rash of alleged police-wrongdoings, ASIRT will be forced to recruit new members.

“If our work gets so great that we’re not able to handle it, that’s something we’ll definitely have to look at,” he said.

The number of active ASIRT investigations in 2009 is expected to double over last year.

Two teams of eight staffers are investigating 20 active files, including a police chase down 118 Avenue in February, which ended in a horrific crash that killed a female passenger of a stolen car.

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