Calgary officer who assaulted Black woman could see case tossed because of delay

·2 min read
Calgary police Const. Alex Dunn assaulted Dalia Kafi, left, in 2017. The delay between charge and sentencing means his conviction is at risk of being tossed.  (Dalia Kafi, court exhibit - image credit)
Calgary police Const. Alex Dunn assaulted Dalia Kafi, left, in 2017. The delay between charge and sentencing means his conviction is at risk of being tossed. (Dalia Kafi, court exhibit - image credit)

More than two years after he was charged, and six months after he was found guilty of a violent assault on a young Black woman, a Calgary police officer has still not been sentenced and there are concerns the delay could result in the conviction being tossed.

In December, Const. Alex Dunn was convicted of assault causing bodily harm for the 2017 violent takedown of Dalia Kafi, who was thrown on the ground head first while handcuffed.

Although there was no evidence Dunn's assault on Kafi, who was 26 at the time, was motivated by racism, both the Crown and judge have noted that given the current climate, an officer's attack on a Black woman is harmful to the community.

Dunn was charged in May 2019, and convicted by provincial court Judge Michelle Christopher following a trial in December 2020.

'A sense of urgency'

A sentencing hearing took place in February with defence lawyer Cory Wilson proposing no jail time for his client, with a combination of house arrest, curfew and probation. Prosecutor Ryan Pollard asked for a nine-month jail term.

In a 2016 ruling regarding defendant Barrett Richard Jordan's 49-month journey through the legal system, the Supreme Court of Canada set an 18-month deadline for provincial court trials — from date of charge to date of sentence. Cases that take longer than that are at risk of being stayed for breaching an accused's Charter-protected right to a timely trial.

Dunn was charged 25 months ago and has yet to be sentenced.

"We have a sense of urgency with respect to this matter," said prosecutor Ryan Pollard. "I fear we're really treading in Jordan territory, Mr. Dunn was found guilty many months ago."

Christopher did not want to sentence Dunn until a mental health assessment was completed but there were issues with getting the report done because the psychiatrists involved wanted trial transcripts that hadn't yet been provided.

To speed matters along, Pollard abandoned his application for a weapons ban, to negate the judge's call for the assessment.

Christopher will now deliver her sentence in two weeks.

On Dec. 13, 2017, after Kafi and her friends were pulled over by police during a traffic stop, she was taken into custody by Dunn for breaching a court-imposed curfew.

At the arrest processing unit, Dunn ordered Kafi to stand against a wall to have her photo taken and as he reached to remove her hair scarf for the photo, she ducked away from him.

Dunn then flung Kafi onto the concrete floor, with her hands still cuffed behind her back.

Kafi's head can be seen bouncing off the ground with a pool of blood quickly forming.

The trial took place last October, and after the video was released, it went viral — viewed more than 13 million times around the world.

This story is part of a CBC project entitled Being Black in Canada, which highlights the stories and experiences of Black Canadians, from anti-Black racism to success stories Black communities can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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