Edmonton police officer fined $2,000 for 2019 assault on Indigenous man

A provincial court judge has fined an Edmonton police officer $2,000 for an assault on an “unsuspecting and unresisting” Indigenous man during an August 2019 arrest captured on video.

Edmonton Police Service (EPS) Const. Michael Partington was convicted of assault earlier this year for what Judge Peter Ayotte described as an “unnecessary and gratuitous” assault on Elliot McLeod.

Witness video of the assault shows McLeod lying face down on the ground while Const. Curtis McCargar holds his arms behind his back.

Partington strides up and, without warning, suddenly drops, driving his knee between McLeod’s shoulder blades.

In sentencing Partington on Thursday, Ayotte said while the assault on McLeod fortunately did not result in bodily harm, “it resulted in immediate, significant pain to the victim.

“Moreover, the force was applied without warning to a completely unsuspecting and unresisting person who was face down on the ground and, for all intents and purposes, under the control of another police officer,” Ayotte said.

During sentencing arguments in October, Crown prosecutor Carla MacPhail pushed for Partington to receive 60 to 90 days in jail followed by probation, stressing the need for a sentence that would deter other officers.

WATCH | Video of the arrest:

Crown investigating Edmonton Police Service arrest video

1 year ago

A video circulating on social media shows an Edmonton police officer dropping his knee into the back of a man lying on the ground in August 2019. 1:41

Partington’s lawyer, Mike Danyluik, recommended a conditional discharge with 12 to 18 months of probation, and 120 to 180 hours of community service, or a suspended sentence. He characterized the assault as a “one-second impulsive act.”

Ayotte dismissed Danyluik’s description, saying he has watched the video numerous times and “the word that describes what I saw is not ‘impulsive,’ but ‘deliberate.'”

Ayotte said McLeod’s victim impact statement, in which he described his fear of authority figures, was more directed at McCargar than Partington, who the judge concluded played a “secondary” role.

Partington has six months to pay the $2,000 fine but can receive more time if needed, provided he is making payments. There will also be a $600 victim surcharge.

Ayotte had previously rejected the entire narrative created by Partington and McCargar to justify the assault, finding the testimony of both officers unreliable, self-serving, and sometimes containing outright lies.

Prosecutors charged Partington with assault in June 2020, a week and a half after a private citizen posted the video on social media. The video also shows McCargar punching a handcuffed McLeod in the back of the head before he is placed in a cruiser.

Edmonton police have not yet responded to a CBC News query about the employment status of Partington, who was suspended without pay when he was charged.

Video withheld

The EPS received the video of the assault on Aug. 28, 2019, the day after the arrest.

But as CBC News revealed, even though EPS’s Professional Standards Branch immediately launched an investigation, the force did not disclose the video to Crown prosecutors for another four months.

When Edmonton police finally disclosed the video in late December 2019 — two weeks before McLeod’s trial, and after he had turned down a plea deal — prosecutors stayed four criminal charges against him, including resisting arrest and assaulting a police officer.

Legal experts said police should have disclosed the video to the Crown and McLeod’s defence lawyer as soon as possible. One former prosecutor said the failure violated the law and undermined McLeod’s legal rights.

An EPS spokesperson said the Professional Standards Branch “was not able to locate/make contact with all of the witnesses” until late December 2019.

Edmonton police previously said that once Partington is sentenced and a complaint investigation is resolved, they would begin another internal investigation into McCargar’s behaviour during the arrest.

McLeod is suing Partington, McCargar, and EPS for $250,000.

Following the sentencing Thursday, McLeod’s civil lawyer, Erika Norheim, said she believes Partington would have gotten away with the assault had there not been video evidence. She said this case underscores the need for Edmonton police to use body cameras.

“Until there are cameras, and until police know that their actions are going to be recorded, there is simply no accountability,” she said.

“This type of behaviour occurs every day and officers get away with it every day, confident in the knowledge that they are not going to be held accountable.”

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