Former Edmonton cop Derek Huff blows whistle on brutality, corruption

A former cop with an exemplary record is going public about what he calls corruption in Edmonton police ranks, after he tried internally to expose what he believes is organized brutality, but got no results.

"I stood up for what's right, and I just got run out of the police service,” said Derek Huff, 37. “I still can’t even really believe it.”

Huff is a 10-year-veteran who resigned in February, three years after he said he and his partner watched — stunned — as three plainclothes officers viciously beat a handcuffed man while he was down.

“They basically had their knees on his back and were just punching and kicking him just as hard as they could …six fists just pummelling this guy … I could hear him screaming,” said Huff.

He reported what he saw — and his allegations are now being investigated — but he said until recently the alleged assault was kept quiet.

“I can still remember the sounds of the contact of the knuckles hitting his face… I’ve seen lots of arrests and I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Huff said the main instigator was Constable Jack Redlick, now 30. Before joining the Edmonton Police Service, Redlick, who is six foot three inches tall, was a hockey defenceman who was notorious for his fights on ice.

The alleged victim, according to Huff, was Kasimierz Kozina, who was 29 at the time. Redlick and the other officers had targeted the suspected drug dealer in a sting.

Huff said Kozina was much smaller than Redlick — and the attack was unprovoked.

“I compared it to the Rodney King beating,” said Huff. “My first initial thought [was] that 'I want to get in this car and get out of here as fast as I can.' [My partner and I] were in shock.”

Back at the downtown police station, Huff said he saw Kozina being taken away by ambulance.

“His face was a great big giant black ball … of blood and bruising,” said Huff. “It looked like he had a gotten into a full head-on collision and smashed his head into a steering wheel.”

Huff said he and his partner Mike Furman agonized over what to do. They felt they had two choices; "rat" on their fellow officers or — if Kozina complained — they might be forced to lie later, to protect their jobs, because they were there.

“We had a big decision to make,” said Huff.

The next day, Huff said he and Furman told their sergeant what they’d seen. They were so scared, Huff said, they met their boss in a police cruiser and didn’t put anything in writing.

In the meantime, Huff said Kozina needed surgery to repair his face. He never did file a complaint, though.

“If a pack of police officers handcuffed me and put me in the hospital and nothing happened, I’d be pretty scared of them,” said Huff, who said nothing came of their report to their boss, either.

“[The sergeant] came back and said that he read all the reports that were submitted and as far as he’s concerned it justifies the actions that Redlick and his partners took, and that Mike and I no longer need to be involved,” he said.

“I couldn't’ believe it. Even to this day I still can’t believe it.”

Huff suggested the other officers involved lied, by telling the sergeant Kozina attacked first.

“People stick to a story. They cover things up. They want to justify beating people up,” said Huff. “I ran into corruption. Covering up evidence is corruption.”

He said he and his partner were then branded as "rats" and were mocked and shunned, particularly by Redlick. Huff said it got so bad, when he and Furman called for backup on the street, no one came.

“I went from having a great career to being a rat — and it’s almost like jail,” said Huff. “If you’re labelled a rat in the police service, you’re done.”

Go Public contacted Redlick for comment on all of this, but he didn’t respond. We also asked to talk to Furman. A police spokesperson said neither officer is allowed to talk about this case because it hasn’t been resolved.

Huff said the ostracizing became so unbearable, he couldn’t function at work. He went to other supervisors and managers for help, but he said no one did anything about the root problem.

“Every time I tried to talk to superiors, they would minimize it — into me and my partner having a problem with these beat guys,” said Huff. “And I kept saying, ‘That’s not the problem.’”

Two years after witnessing the alleged police brutality, Huff said he went to the deputy chief and revealed all, in a formal, written complaint. It was sent to the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), which investigates police misconduct.

He also went on stress leave. The investigation into his complaint was completed six months ago, but he’s still waiting to hear the outcome. In the meantime, Huff was ordered back to work in the same division. He quit instead.

“I gave up. I sacrificed my career. I stood up for what's right, and I just got run out of the police service. I thought there is nothing else I could do. I lost.”

Since Huff initially reported the alleged beating, Redlick has been investigated for other violent police incidents.

In 2011, he shot and killed a 17-year-old aboriginal boy. Police who were there said the teen, Cyrus Green, had fled the scene of a robbery and was threatening them with a knife and a baseball bat.

Redlick shot the teen three times. The officer was cleared of wrongdoing, but the boy’s mother is suing him.

Then, last year, Redlick picked up a man in his 50s and beat him up in a schoolyard. Redlick later admitted to that in a statement of fact agreed to during a disciplinary action.

The officer and his partner had arrested George Petropolous after his mother called to say he’d hit her during an argument.

Redlick rode in the back seat of the cruiser with Petropolous and then told his partner to pull in to a high school parking lot.

Redlick took the handcuffs off Petropolous and walked him to an area where they couldn’t be seen. Petropolous said the officer then put him face down in the snow and punched him repeatedly — while holding his head.

“He knew what he was doing exactly. I could tell that this man is trained,” said Petropolous, who said he was terrified.

“I was in a tremendous amount of pain — to the point that I couldn’t breathe from the punches … there is something wrong with him.”

Petropolous's lawyer said the allegations his client was arrested for turned out to be unfounded. The charges were stayed.

“But Redlick just shows up. No investigation. Just on basis of a complaint — decides to beat him up and administers street justice,” said Tom Engel.

Petropolous filed a complaint against Redlick, alleging the officer told him he wasn’t the first to get beaten up.

“He says, ‘I’ve done it to other inmates before. I’ve taken them out of the car. Some of them wouldn’t come out. They were crying and begging,’” said Petropolous.

At first, Redlick and his partner denied wrongdoing. Redlick then pleaded guilty to misconduct and was docked $15,000 pay. His partner now faces discipline for lying to protect him.

The file was sent to the Crown, but no charges were laid. However, an Edmonton police spokesperson said because of "other recent information" the Crown is now "re-examining the evidence."

The disciplinary decision on Redlick said he was suffering from “mental health issues.” Because he had no previous disciplinary citations on his record, it stated, “This was clearly an isolated incident.”

Petropolous’s lawyer said that is outrageous, especially given what Huff reported years earlier. He can’t understand why Redlick is still on the job.

“I’ve been told this guy has been doing this for a long time,” said Engel, who has filed an appeal. “They have a cop who goes vigilante … if you don’t fired for doing that, what do you get fired for?”

“There were so many people inside the organization that knew what Redlick was doing, they knew he was doing this to people, but yet they continue on,” said Huff.

Rod Knecht has been Edmonton’s police chief since 2011. He told Go Public he knew nothing about Huff’s initial allegations until last year. He said he also wasn’t aware of why Huff had resigned.

“Obviously if the good cop goes and the bad cop stays, that’s not a good thing,” said Knecht. “Could things have been done differently? Absolutely.”

When he came on as chief, Knecht promised to protect whistleblowers. He’s now promising to take Huff’s allegations seriously.

“Obviously it’s intolerable behaviour. We don’t accept that as tolerable behaviour at all. An officer committing a criminal act — or act against the Police Act — we won’t tolerate that in this organization and we’ll deal with it.”

Despite what’s happened, Huff said he still loves being a cop and wants his job back once this is resolved.

"I did absolutely nothing wrong,” said Huff. “All I’ve ever wanted since day one was the truth — and it’s finally coming out.”

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