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EPS officer who stole cash, gift cards, cigarettes can keep his job after chief loses appeal bid

An Edmonton Police Service shoulder badge in Edmonton Alberta on Tuesday Aug 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson. An Edmonton Police Service shoulder badge in Edmonton Alberta on Tuesday Aug 1, 2023. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson.
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Edmonton's police chief has lost a legal ruling seeking the firing of an officer who stole cash, gift cards and cigarettes while on duty.

Const. David Ahlstrom was arrested in 2017 and charged with three counts of theft under $5,000.

Ahlstrom took $300 from a homicide scene he was tasked with securing in 2016. He later told his supervisors what he had done and the money was logged.

EPS transferred Ahlstrom to administrative duties and an Alberta Serious Incident Response Team investigation was launched.

Ahlstrom then took $25, two $50 gift cards, $88 and cigarettes during a pair of ASIRT "integrity tests" conducted in 2017, according to court documents.

The officer later pleaded guilty to two counts of breach of trust by a public officer and was sentenced to 18 months probation. He was also ordered to pay $400 in victim fines.

Ahlstrom was then charged with 10 counts of misconduct under the Police Service Regulation including deceit, insubordination, neglect of duty, corrupt practice and discreditable conduct. He pleaded guilty to all of them.

The presiding officer decided Ahlstrom should be fired, but he appealed to the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB), which concluded that the officer could return to policing with a rank reduction from "Senior Constable Level 1-8 Years to Constable 4th Year" for two years.

"On appeal, the board found that the presiding officer’s decision was not justifiable, intelligible, or transparent and the dismissal was not a reasonable outcome based on the facts and law," the March LERB ruling states.

At issue was the officer's post traumatic stress and major depressive disorders, which the LERB ruled were not properly considered by the presiding officer.

Police Chief Dale McFee attempted to have the LERB decision overturned by the Court of Appeal of Alberta and Justice Jolaine Antonio, who filed a ruling last Tuesday.

Despite finding "intelligibility concerns" with the LERB's two-year rank reduction ruling, Antonio denied McFee's effort "with some reluctance" because his appeal does not "address a significant question of law."

"The questions of law the applicant seeks to raise are well settled. Therefore, they cannot be considered significant questions of law warranting scrutiny by a panel of this court," Antonio's decision states.

"I am not satisfied the Board’s legal failures in this case indicate a pattern of disregard for its role in reasonableness review or otherwise implicate the integrity of the complaint process."

Ahlstrom was suspended without pay during the proceedings. EPS is "reviewing the appeal decision and determining next steps," a spokesperson said.

"The reality is, obviously the decision that I made in that particular case wasn't the one that the hearing officer thought was the right one," McFee told CTV News Edmonton Monday at an unrelated press conference.

"I've always been a believer that if it's deceit and/or dishonesty we have to deal with that. That's what this particularly was, or the facts. We live with the consequences and we move on, and we find the best path forward and that's what we'll do."

   

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