Alberta sheriff still employed following assault conviction

Alberta sheriff Chad Exner was convicted in January of assaulting his ex-wife. (Submitted by Jaime McKenzie - image credit)
Alberta sheriff Chad Exner was convicted in January of assaulting his ex-wife. (Submitted by Jaime McKenzie - image credit)

An Alberta sheriff who was convicted of assaulting his ex-wife continued to work for the Alberta Sheriffs Branch after his conviction.

According to court documents, Chad Exner was found guilty of assaulting his then-wife Jaime McKenzie in October 2020.

Exner was convicted in January and court heard he has been employed as a sheriff throughout the entirety of his trial and after his conviction.

Edmonton defence lawyer Tom Engel, chair of the Criminal Trial Lawyers' Association's policing committee, said by keeping Exner employed despite his conviction, the reputation of law enforcement in the province is "badly damaged."

"It makes you think what else is going on in that department?

"How many other sheriffs are working there who have been charged or under criminal prosecution or even been found guilty and maybe got discharged," Engel said.

The Code of Conduct and Ethics for the Alberta Public Service, which includes the Alberta Sheriffs Branch, states that services are expected to be conducted with impartiality and integrity.

"There should not be, or appear to be, any conflict between the private interests of employees and their duty to the public," states the code.

"At the same time, employees should be able to enjoy the same rights in their private lives as other citizens, unless a restriction is in the public interest."

Alberta Sheriffs Branch has not commented on Exner's status of employment. Exner declined to comment on his conviction and his employment.

Engel says in his opinion a criminal conviction, particularly a violent one, directly violates the code and is concerning because law enforcement officers can carry weapons and are regularly dealing with the public.

"I've been doing this for many years dealing with law enforcement misconduct. This is right up there with the worst cases in terms of accountability," Engel said.

McKenzie said the couple ended their nine-year marriage earlier this year.

"It scares me because he was my husband. He was the person that I trusted most to protect me," McKenzie said in an emotional interview with CBC.

During Exner's sentencing on Tuesday, in which Justice Donna Valgardson reserved her decision, Exner's lawyer asked for a discharge so after his probation he would be cleared of a criminal record to keep his job.

But the Crown argued against a discharge, citing the code of conduct and ethics and the trauma suffered by McKenzie.

Sentencing will resume June 12 at the Alberta Court of Justice.