EPS chief grilled about 'bad attempt at humour' social media post

Edmonton Police Chief Dale McFee.

Edmonton's police chief Dale McFee responded to questions Thursday afternoon about controversial posts that he and other members of his service have recently made on social media.

Last month, Edmonton Police Service officials deleted a Facebook status that did not "reflect the empathetic approach” expected from officers.

The post detailed the arrest of a naked man, who was accused of breaking into an Edmonton Home Depot store on Christmas Eve.

Critics said the post was insensitive and mocked the man who may have been having a mental health crisis, but McFee claimed he was acting strangely because he was high on meth.

The chief defended the arrest and the use of a dog to take him down during a virtual police commission meeting Thursday afternoon, but allowed that he didn't like the tone of the post either.

"That was not acceptable, it didn't need to be posted the way it was," McFee said. "It was a bad attempt at humour."

"That canine engagement was not the issue. It was a commercial break and enter of a serious violent offender on meth. Like all other canine engagements though, that part will be reviewed."

McFee added that the Facebook post was not made by the arresting officer, but by another person whom he did not name.

"That individual has been spoken to about his behaviour in relation to posting, and I think we've got to a good outcome on that, and we consider this closed. If it happens again, then we take further action," he promised.

'I THINK WE HAVE TO EXHIBIT SOME SENSITIVITY'

But police commissioner Ashvin Singh, a local lawyer, said his concerns over the EPS' use of social media, didn't end there.

"That was one of the more egregious posts, and the group did delete it, and an apology was made. But, you know, I've looked through some of the more historical posts, and they don't paint the most laudable picture either," Singh said.

Several people attending the meeting also referred to a controversial EPS Twitter post about a suspect who claimed he stole a car during an extreme cold warning "because it was cold out."

Officers from our TRAP team arrested a car thief Thursday night, who said he stole the car ‘because it was cold out’. The vehicle had been left running around 170 Ave and 127 Street and was tracked thanks to @EPS_Air1

Don’t leave your car running unattended.#OperationColdStart

— Edmonton Police (@edmontonpolice) January 8, 2022

Singh suggested the EPS bring in a vetting process for posts before sharing them with the public.

"They really seem to glamourize, to some extent, the arrests that have been made. Given the complex nature of crime that we all recognize, I think we have to exhibit some sensitivity around criminal flight," Singh argued.

'IT'S NOT AN OPINION, IT'S A RETWEET'

The force is now reviewing it's social media policies, director of communications Michael James, told commissioners.

He said things like training for officers who make posts, examining the number of official accounts the EPS has and determining if policies are being followed were all part of that process.

"We want to really make sure that the face that we're putting forward is appropriate for all audiences," James said.

McFee was also asked about his account specifically and what he shares, by both a reporter and City Councillor Anne Stevenson.

On Tuesday, McFee retweeted a video from an author in Oregon who claimed that progressive political policies were contributing to rising crime.

"If we can be identified as a City of Edmonton employee, we need to be really moderated in what public statements we're making," Stevenson said, referring to existing rules.

McFee argued the post was not necessarily a political stance, but rather something he thinks Edmonton business owners are also feeling.

"It's not an opinion, it's a retweet just for people to educate themselves," he explained.

"I think we'd be missing the point if we didn't think some of those business concerns aren't coming from the citizens of Edmonton."

A complete agenda for the meeting is posted online.