THE National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), the Canada Anti-Hate Network and the Hate Free Yeg are calling for a public inquiry after an Edmonton police officer, Constable Nathan Downing, who is accused of using excessive force and racist slurs during the arrest of Edmonton man Nasser El-Hallak, was put back on active duty.
Downing was recently permitted to return to active duty despite a disciplinary hearing arising from these allegations, and also from the allegation that Downing arrested a witness testifying in his own disciplinary hearing.
Upon learning of this arrest in late May, the NCCM and other human rights groups called for Downing to be reassigned to a non-patrol capacity while the investigation into the witness arrest remained ongoing. This request was successful, and Downing was put on pre-approved leave. However, Downing was returned to active duty last week.
“The fact that Constable Downing – who has a history of using excessive force during arrests, and who arrested a key witness just prior to his own disciplinary hearing – has been permitted to quietly return to active duty is incredibly concerning. It means that there is a fundamental issue with the investigative process here. That is why we are calling for a public inquiry into this matter,” said Mustafa Farooq, NCCM Executive Director, on Monday.
“At a time when police have come under strong scrutiny for how they have dealt with minority groups, it is incumbent upon all police services to be sensitive to the manner in which they handle minority community issues. The matter of Constable Downing was mismanaged and poorly considered. Given all the mistakes made during the course of this case an inquiry would both bring answers and give needed direction for the future,” said Bernie M. Farber, Chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network.
“Hate Free Yeg is committed to building safer, more welcoming, and more inclusive public spaces for all Edmontonians. Our city police service is entrusted with a substantial role in protecting public safety; we believe this safety mandate must include a commitment to addressing incidents of racism and other forms of hate that may involve EPS members and that this must include transparency and accountability to the public the force is committed to serve. We are disappointed with the decision to return Constable Downing to patrol duties while the investigation into these incidents is ongoing and believe this type of decision harms the sense of trust and safety for marginalized communities in our city,” said Bridget Stirling of the Hate Free YEG.
“The allegations against Constable Downing are not only serious, but they undermine the public’s trust in the Edmonton Police Service and its ability to investigate the conduct of its officers. Constable Downing should not have returned to active duty during the investigation and disciplinary hearing into his interaction with Mr. El-Hallak. It is deeply disturbing and frankly suspect that Constable Downing would stop and charge the main witness testifying against him at the hearing shortly before she’s scheduled to testify. The public deserves to know why the EPS and Constable Downing made the decisions that [they] did, and why Constable Downing happened to stop and charge the witness right before his disciplinary hearing. This can only be accomplished through a public inquiry,” said Avnish Nanda, Edmonton-based lawyer.