Edmontonians show support for the Indigenous young adult who was kicked in the head by a police officer, and demand justice system reforms.
Content warning: This article contains disturbing details and mentions suicide.
(ANNews) - On May 6, more than 100 people gathered outside the Alberta Justice building in downtown Edmonton to support Pacey Dumas and his family, and to call for reforms to the province's justice system following an announcement in late April that Constable Ben Todd – the police officer who kicked the Indigenous young adult in the head – would not face charges.
Many of those in attendance wore orange, with chants of “Justice for Pacey” ringing out throughout the rally. Pacey Dumas was there but did not speak, though was visibly emotional especially while standing near the drummers during an Honour Song with his mother, while his grandfather looked up at the sky. Several other family members spoke out with hopes of the Crown reconsidering its position not to charge the officer, who is currently on paid leave from EPS.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the body which investigates allegations of police misconduct, released a report on April 27 giving its decision in the case of Pacey Dumas. Dumas, who was 18 and weighed 90 pounds at the time, was kicked in the head during an arrest by Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Const. Ben Todd. The kick resulted in a traumatic injury, with a tennis ball-sized portion of Dumas' skull needing to be removed to accommodate pressure from brain swelling, later replaced by a metal plate.
ASIRT's report, which does not name either the officer or injured person, suggests charges against Todd, who is currently on paid leave while EPS conducts an internal investigation. However, the Alberta Crown Prosecution Service (ACPS) has declined to prosecute, recommending to ASIRT that no charges be laid.
Michael Ewenson, ASIRT's executive director, wrote in the report that, “This does not, however, mean the [officer’s] conduct was appropriate. It showed a shocking lack of judgment and disregard for the life of [Dumas]. The public expects significantly better from a police officer.”
At the rally, the Dumas' family lawyer, Hilary Steinke-Attia, called for reforms to police oversight and the justice system. “This is a dangerous message to give to rogue officers who do abuse their authority because it says whatever you do, you can do it with impunity,” she said.
“The prosecution service has the ultimate decision-making power as to what charges go before the courts. Their decision is confidential. We don't get to know the basis behind their decision, We don't get to know the names of the prosecutors who made that decision, and that decision is unreviewable and unappealable,” Steinke-Attia continued.
According to the ASIRT report, on December 9, 2020 six EPS officers, Todd included, as well as a k9 unit, went to Dumas' house in response to a complaint that a fight had taken place, and that a knife was involved. Todd, armed with a carbine, and two other officers, one armed with an ARWEN projectile launcher, were in front of the house, while three officers were stationed behind it. Dumas exited the house and crawled on his stomach towards the officers, which he was asked to do. The officers claim that Dumas admitted to having a knife and began reaching towards his waistband. Todd threatened to kick him in the face if Dumas did not stop, but Dumas continued to reach for his pocket. Todd then proceeded with the kick to Dumas' head.
The kick resulted in Dumas being immediately rendered unconscious. No knife was found on him. While a knife was found near the house the following day by investigators, it was not related to the incident.
In ASIRT's report, Ewenson concluded that Todd acted in a “hasty and violent manner.”
“While the law recognizes that police officers operate in dynamic situations, it is difficult to see how the life of any officer was threatened by the 90-pound AP, who was laying on the ground and covered by multiple officers with a range of weapons and a police dog.”
Dumas' brother Blair, then 19, was also arrested. Neither of the brothers were charged with a criminal offence, nor did either of them have criminal records. While in handcuffs, Blair witnessed the incident. Blair Dumas died by suicide in March of 2022.
The Dumas family has filed a civil lawsuit against Todd and the EPS. Trial dates have not yet been set.
With files from Jeremy Appel.