Law student files complaint against Edmonton homicide detective

Law student files complaint against Edmonton homicide detective
Law student calls for veteran homicide detectives ouster after class lecture
A University of Alberta law student is calling for the suspension of Edmonton’s best-known homicide detective — a city cop of more than 30 years — over comments she claims he made as a guest lecturer.

Caitlin Dick, a second-year law student, alleges city police Staff Sgt. Bill Clark made derogatory comments about defence lawyers, referred to a homicide victim’s race and called criminals maggots during a presentation to her class on Nov. 1.

Tom Engel, a defence lawyer and well-known police critic, is representing Dick’s case and filed a complaint with the city’s acting police chief over Clark’s alleged comments Wednesday.

“This is not the first time that Staff Sgt. Clark has faced trouble and controversy regarding public statements he has made,” the letter of complaint to acting Chief Kevin Brezinski reads. “He has been disciplined previously. Despite that, he has demonstrated that he is ungovernable and unfit to serve as a police officer.

“He should be suspended immediately or put into some sort of a position where he is no longer involved in investigations and prosecutions.”

In an emailed statement, police service spokeswoman Cheryl Sheppard said the acting chief has received the letter and has ordered an investigation by the Professional Standards Branch (PSB).

“He is concerned by the comments attributed to a member of the Edmonton Police Service,” Sheppard said. “Pursuant to the provisions of the Police Act, the chief has directed that a PSB investigation be conducted into the allegations.”

In a Thursday interview, Dick said: “When the police say things that are so blatantly shocking and inappropriate, and when they act in a way that is unbecoming of the role they’re supposed to play, we shouldn’t be scared to speak out.”  

Dick, in her complaint, said the detective was a guest of class instructor Malcolm Allan, a former Edmonton city police inspector who now teaches policing law at the university. Clark’s presentation was about homicide investigations and included a recording of a real 911 call from a woman who had been stabbed by her husband as well as crime scene photos and example dispatch sheets.

Early on in the lecture, Dick alleges Clark asked the class to raise their hands to show whether they wanted to be prosecutors or defence lawyers, who Clark called “the bad guys.” Dick said it was the first of several shots Clark took at defence lawyers. She also claims Clark made comments suggesting suspects are given differential treatment depending on how much he likes their lawyer, saying he only allows lawyers to see their clients “if they’re respectful.”

Dick alleges that Clark then told the students to come say hello if they ever bump into him in court but then added with a laugh that if “you’re on the good side I’ll say hi, if you’re on the bad side I’ll say f— you.”

Dick also alleges that Clark referred to a victim bludgeoned to death with a hammer as being from an “East Indian family.” Dick said she raised her hand to ask why he mentioned that victim’s race, to which she claims Clark replied, “I dunno, because they were.”

Clark also referred to an “ongoing battle with Tom Engel,” saying they share a mutual hatred, claims Dick. In addition, she alleges Clark referred to criminals as maggots, expressed support for the death penalty, and said the age at which someone can be tried as an adult should be lowered “because 14-year-olds are just absolute criminals.”

Dick claims Clarks comments were extremely upsetting and made her seriously doubt his ability to investigate impartially. If he felt comfortable saying such things to law students and a former police inspector one can only imagine the things he has to say to subordinates and other officers within the Edmonton Police Service, the letter states.

Clark often serves as a police spokesperson on homicides in the city. He’s known for his candour at crime scenes and once saved a 10-day-old baby from the aftermath of Edmontons 1987 deadly tornado. But his off-the-cuff comments sometimes land him in hot water.

In 2011, Clark expressed frustration after 23-year-old Mohammed Jama was shot and killed in a busy lounge on 107 Avenue. Clark told media that only one witness had come forward to speak to police despite the lounge being full of people.

Dick’s letter says Clark made comments about Jama’s character and “implied that as the Somali community was not co-operating with the homicide section, the investigation would not be advanced.”

A University of Alberta law student is asking that a veteran Edmonton homicide detective be suspended over comments she says he made as a guest speaker during a law and policing class. 

During the class, Staff Sgt. Bill Clark of the Edmonton Police Service referred to defence lawyers as "bad guys," said Caitlin Dick, a second-year law student.

Dick told CBC in an interview Thursday that the detective suggested the way he dealt with some suspects was influenced by whether or not he liked the lawyer representing them.

"His comments are showing that he is letting his own personal opinion dictate how he treats people in his custody," she said. 

Dick claimed that Clark told the students that "if you are a criminal, you're a maggot to me."

He expressed his support for the death penalty, saying he was "an eye-for-an-eye kind of guy," according to Dick. 

Clark also made comments regarding young offenders, said Dick, and indicated that he wished the age to try a youth as an adult was lowered "because 14 year-olds are just absolute criminals."

Acting chief Kevin Brezinski received the letter of complaint, sent by Edmonton defence lawyer Tom Engel, and asked the Professional Standards Branch to investigate, EPS spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said in an emailed statement.

"He is concerned by the comments attributed to a member of the Edmonton Police Service," Sheppard wrote.

Clark was the subject of a complaint in 2011 over comments he made regarding the murder investigation of Mohamud Jama.

He had suggested that if the Somali-Canadian community didn't come forward with information concerning the case, police would move on to other cases. 

"He doesn't seem to care how he comes across, how inappropriate his comments are," Dick said. 

"You can only imagine what he would say behind closed doors, if he would say that to a room of law students."

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