Lethbridge cop suspended for search of woman's info days after she reported sex assault by retired inspector

·3 min read
Lethbridge police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh has suspended one of his officers pending an investigation into a potentially illegal search of a database. The person who was searched had accused a retired LPS officer of sexual assault. (Meghan Grant/CBC - image credit)
Lethbridge police Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh has suspended one of his officers pending an investigation into a potentially illegal search of a database. The person who was searched had accused a retired LPS officer of sexual assault. (Meghan Grant/CBC - image credit)

The Lethbridge Police Service has suspended an officer who is accused of using a police database to illegally search information about a young woman who had alleged she had been sexually assaulted by a retired LPS inspector.

The woman's name cannot be published, so CBC News will identify the woman as Emma.

Emma says that in 2018 she felt forced into a sexual relationship with Bill Kaye, a retired inspector who spent his 35-year career with the police department in Lethbridge, Alta., before becoming the head of DVAT (Domestic Violence Action Team), where he was her case worker and victim's advocate.

At the time, Emma was 25 and Kaye was 58 years old.

Search took place after LPS insisted on investigating

On Jan. 21, 2021, Emma met with a constable at the Lethbridge Police Service to report that she felt victimized by Kaye.

CBC News has reviewed text messages and emails between Kaye and Emma that confirm there was a sexual relationship.

But Emma says she felt that because of Kaye's long history with the department, the officers she dealt with at LPS were dismissive, so she went to RCMP.

On Feb. 3, 2021, Emma says and an email from RCMP Sgt. David Marentette confirms that LPS insisted on keeping jurisdiction of the investigation, which was later turned over to the RCMP.

Two days later, an LPS officer is alleged to have accessed Emma's personal information on police databases.

"Improper access of such information is taken very seriously by the Lethbridge Police Service," LPS said Monday in a news release.

'Police watchdog investigates'

The officer is suspended with pay pending a probe by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), a civilian oversight agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct.

Once ASIRT is done, LPS will launch its own internal professional conduct investigation.

In late February, Emma filed a FOIP request, asking for information including the Niche report — which would show who within the service had searched for her private information.

'I am not surprised'

Although she was contacted Monday afternoon and informed of the suspension, Emma says she still has not received the report.

"After being refused my records and being denied a reason, I still don't have my disclosure package that I requested. So to be notified only after the commission and the solicitor general were notified, I am not surprised," said Emma in reaction to the suspension.

"However, I do feel violated and deeply disappointed."

This news comes after Lethbridge MLA Shannon Phillips requested similar information following the revelation that she had been surreptitiously photographed at a diner with the images later being shared online.

In her FOIP'd disclosure package, Phillips learned that over the course of 11 months in 2018, her name was searched eight times by five police officers and one civilian employee. No investigative purpose was given for those searches.

Other LPS controversies

Two weeks ago, LPS delivered an action plan to the province's justice minister aimed at fixing problems that led to a threat the service could be dissolved following a couple of years of scandals and corruption allegations.

Aside from the incidents involving Phillips, last month, five police employees were suspended with pay as part of an investigation into the circulation of inappropriate memes.

Last year, the force was criticized for the violent takedown of a citizen wearing a Star Wars stormtrooper costume and brandishing a toy laser blaster.

And the year before that, images and video went viral showing a Lethbridge officer euthanizing a deer by running over the animal numerous times with a police vehicle.

In its statement Monday, LPS said improper searches were identified as an issue that needed to be addressed and measures were included in the action plan submitted to the minister of justice.