Lethbridge-West MLA Shannon Phillips has revealed shocking details around unauthorized police surveillance of her when she was the NDP’s environment minister.
The details come after the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) announced last month it was launching a second investigation into the circumstances surrounding a series of potentially unauthorized uses of police databases by members of the Lethbridge Police Service.
Phillips says she put in a request under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) last year, to give her and her lawyer a better understanding of what they were dealing with in relation to alleged unauthorized surveillance of the MLA by LPS.
“I got that freedom of information request back in December, it was more than 9,000 pages, mostly redacted, which doesn’t at all seem normal when you’re doing just a simple freedom of information request on yourself,” Phillips said.
A CBC report stated that over the course of 11 months, Phillips’ name was searched eight times by five former and current LPS officers, and a civilian employee.
Phillips confirmed those details to Global News on Monday, saying that LPS deputy chief Scott Woods was among the officers listed in the FOIP information.
She added that many of the searches of her name did not include a lawful reason for doing so.
“Accessing someone’s records for no law enforcement purpose is unlawful, and it’s deeply concerning,” Phillips said.
“That was the first thing that caused me quite a bit of alarm.”
The Lethbridge-West MLA says the second thing she found troubling dated back to 2016.
“There was a record in there of a complaint that was made about something that happened at a pub in 2016, of which I had no awareness,” she said.
“Four-and-a-half years later I’m opening up this file for the first time and I see that someone complained that they had reasonable grounds to believe that they had been given a drink that had a drug in it, and they also had reasonable grounds to believe that that drink had been intended for me.”
“I am listed as a complainant in that police file. I was never told.”
Phillips says she keeps an extensive calendar and was able to check back to that week in 2016, she believes that she was in fact at the Lethbridge bar with members of both her Edmonton and Lethbridge staff.
“The Lethbridge Police Service — just as all police services do — have a duty to warn, and they didn’t uphold that duty, and that revelation was shocking to me,” she said.
“They cared so little about my personal safety that they didn’t even pick up the phone, and they all have my phone number, they all know where to find me.”
Phillips said LPS needs to repair the trust that has been lost by her and all Lethbridge residents when it comes to the community’s police service.
“All of this has had a tremendously corrosive effect on people’s willingness to engage in the democratic process,” Phillips said. “And I want no one to have any hesitation to do that because of police intimidation or surveillance, or any of those things.”
The Lethbridge Police Service was asked for comment by Global News on Monday and the following statement was given:
“The Lethbridge Police Service is unable to provide comment on the matter as it is part of an ongoing investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team.”
NDP leader Rachel Notley mirrored her colleague’s comments at the Alberta Legislature on Monday, citing a lack of trust in Lethbridge with LPS.
“No matter what, it is fundamentally important that police earn and maintain the respect and the trust of the people that they serve, and this is obviously a very troubling revelation,” Notley said.
Notley says she believes consequences need to be seen at the end of the ASIRT investigation, to begin to repair the damage done.
“We need the police service to restore trust in itself within that community, within the processes that have been in place,” Notley said.
“There needs to be an opportunity for the system to fix itself, because if it doesn’t then we have a real problem.”
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