The Crown has shut down an Indigenous man’s attempt to privately prosecute the Edmonton police officer who kicked him in the head, leaving him with life-changing injuries.
On Friday, Chief Prosecutor Sarah Langley ordered the court to issue a stay of proceedings on an assault charge facing the Edmonton Police Service. Ben Todd, ending the process started by Pacey Dumas, the young man he injured.
Dumas, a member of the Little Red River Cree Nation, was 18 years old in December 2020 when he suffered a serious brain injury during an arrest in west Edmonton.
Todd’s kick knocked Dumas unconscious and caused his brain to swell. The teenager spent nine days in intensive care. Part of his skull was surgically removed and eventually replaced with a metal plate.
The Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) had previously decided not to press charges against Todd despite a report from Alberta’s police watchdog in April of this year that found the officer displayed a “shocking lack of judgment and contempt” for the life of the adolescent.
Following their investigation, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) asked prosecutors to consider bringing charges of excessive force against Todd, but the Crown declined to prosecute him.
In response, Dumas and her lawyer, Heather Steinke-Attia, attempted to prosecute Todd independently of the Crown, a rarely used legal tactic that was intended to bring the matter before an Alberta Court of Justice judge.
On September 11, Dumas filed what is called a private information, swearing that a crime had been committed and alleging that Todd committed aggravated assault.
However, the Crown has final decision-making power over all forms of prosecution in the
province and whether they should proceed.
The case was due to go before a judge next week at a pre-trial hearing that has now been cancelled.
‘Very high load’
In a statement Monday, the ACPS maintained that the case is not viable because a conviction is unlikely.
“While the circumstances described by Mr. Dumas and his attorney in this matter are disturbing, the role of ACPS is to provide an objective evaluation of actionable evidence and demonstrable facts to determine whether there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction.
“The initial decision not to recommend charges was not an endorsement of the officer’s actions or their tragic consequences. Rather, ACPS’s role is to consider the feasibility of potential charges based on all relevant facts.”
The prosecution said that to proceed with a charge, the Crown must be satisfied that the case meets two key tests: whether there is a reasonable likelihood of conviction and whether there is a public interest.
“The Penal Code authorizes police officers to use as much force as necessary, as long as it is not excessive,” the statement said.
“To achieve a conviction against a police officer, the court must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the force was in fact excessive. This is necessarily a very high burden to meet.”
According to the ASIRT report, Edmonton police officers were responding to a 911 call about a fight and a man armed with a knife.
Four responding officers surrounded the Dumas family home and told everyone to get out. Dumas got on his hands and knees and began crawling “on his belly” toward the officers, as instructed, according to the ASIRT report.
Todd told investigators that she repeatedly asked Dumas to show his hands, but he did not comply. Todd then kicked the teen in the head.
Dumas was unarmed and was never charged.
He also launched a civil case against Todd and the Edmonton Police Service.
“The Dumas family is disappointed that their access to justice has once again been blocked,” Steinke-Attia said in a statement.
“It is incomprehensible that a case of such extreme violence by police is not subject to any form of public accountability or transparency.”