'We see the blood and the tears': Edmonton police chief concerned over courtroom backlogs

'We see the blood and the tears': Edmonton police chief concerned over courtroom backlogs

Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht admits he and his officers share concerns about backlogs in the justice system that have allowed alleged criminals to walk free without ever going to trial.

Last July, the Supreme Court of Canada stayed drug charges against Barrett Richard Jordan after he waited 49 months for a trial.

The Jordan ruling put hard deadlines on getting a case to trial in the overburdened court system. The Crown is given 18 months in provincial court cases and 30 months for Queen's Bench matters.  

According to the most current figures available from Alberta Justice, 83 Jordan applications were filed in Alberta courts between October and mid-April. To date, 16 applications have resulted in charges getting tossed.

Knecht said he's most concerned about the impact on victims.

"We're the ones that see the white of their eyes," he said after Thursday's meeting of the Edmonton police commission.

"We're the ones who talk to them and see how they've been victimized. We see the blood and the tears and how it tears families apart.

"Is Jordan a concern?  Absolutely."

'This is a real buzzkill'

The chief said investigators have taken their concerns about implications of the Jordan ruling to police brass.

"We have our members saying, 'Well, gee, I worked hard on this investigation. I took statements, I worked overtime. I tried to find out the best evidence. I got a good case against this bad guy and now you're telling me it's just going to get dumped?'

"We do have our investigators coming to us, as the executive, and saying, 'Well, this is a real buzzkill. How are we supposed to stay motivated?' "

In response, he said, investigators are told to do the best they can to gather and provide evidence, so it makes it more difficult for cases to be shelved.

But he admitted the situation is having an impact on police morale.

The Alberta government recently injected $14.5 million into the justice system to hire more prosecutors and court staff. The federal government recently appointed four new Court of Queen's Bench justices.