Prison sentence appropriate for Calgary police officer who body-slammed woman: Court of Appeal – Calgary

A three-judge panel of the Alberta Court of Appeal found that a former Calgary police officer was given a prison sentence for punching a woman in the head, according to a decision released Wednesday morning.

Alex Dunn was convicted in 2020 in connection with a 2017 incident at Calgary Police Headquarters where he was seen on video throwing a handcuffed woman to the floor.

Surveillance footage confirmed the woman, later identified as Dalia Kafi, had her hands handcuffed behind her back when she was thrown. She was left lying on the ground in a pool of blood as her face hit the floor.

Dunn was sentenced to 30 days suspended imprisonment, including 15 days of house arrest.

The Crown later successfully appealed the verdict, arguing that the judge had not given sufficient consideration to the fact that Dunn was in a position of trust and that Kafi was a vulnerable person. The appeal judge then imposed a 30-day prison sentence, followed by six months of probation and 75 hours of community service. The prison sentence was suspended because Dunn had already served a conditional sentence.

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Dunn was dismissed from the Calgary Police Service last November for contravening provisions of the Police Act.

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Kafi died in July 2021 of a suspected overdose.

Dunn filed an appeal of his prison sentence on April 5, 2023, with the Calgary Police Association (CPA) being granted intervener status. According to court documents, Dunn argued that the Ontario Superior Court case, to which the first appeal judge referred, “no longer reflects society’s values ​​or goals in sentencing in response to a police officer’s use of excessive force.”

Both Dunn and the CPA also argued that the original conditional sentence was appropriate. The CPA added concerns about how a prison sentence would set a precedent for officers who may face a “momentary lapse of judgment or error.”

The three-judge panel disagreed with both arguments, finding that a prison sentence was appropriate because Dunn attacked a defenseless person, causing injury.

“This was a brutal attack on a petite, handcuffed female prisoner at a police station who posed no risk of violence or escape,” Wednesday’s decision reads.

“The victim was attacked when he was completely defenceless and as a result he suffered injuries because, as the judge hearing the case found, the defendant lost control of himself.”

The panel also found that the 2017 incident did not constitute a situation in which a police officer responded inappropriately to a danger or in which the individual posed a potential danger to themselves or others.

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“We have recognised in the past that split-second decisions made in response to dangerous or violent situations can be flawed and that any sentence imposed in such cases should reflect that understanding… However, it is wrong to think that courts will show leniency to police officers who abuse their position in the way that the defendant did,” the ruling reads.

The decision found that the law does not authorize police officers to mistreat citizens they encounter while performing their duties. The panel said the appeals court has a role to play in restoring trust in law enforcement and the rule of law.

“In sum, a police officer convicted of an unjustified assault resulting in injury is in no better position than any other citizen convicted of the same offence with respect to sentencing,” the commission wrote.

“Indeed, because the police are in a position of trust, the crime can be considered more serious.”

— with files from Ryan White, Global News

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