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Alberta judge wants changes to how peace officers handle unstable people

CALGARY — A judge is recommending changes to how well peace officers are armed and how they deal with mentally unstable people after the death of an Alberta officer in 2012.

March 27, 2018  By The Canadian Press

Judge Bruce Fraser oversaw a fatality inquiry into the death of Rod Lazenby, 62, a peace officer for the Municipal District of Foothills who was attacked while responding to a call about dogs on a rural property south of Calgary.

An autopsy found Lazenby was strangled and had 56 cuts and bruises to his face, head, neck, body and back. He also suffered numerous internal injuries.

Trevor Kloschinsky told officers he had apprehended a dog thief. He was charged with first-degree murder, but was found not criminally responsible because a mental disorder meant he didn’t understand that what he was doing was wrong.

“It would appear (Lazenby) was unaware Kloschinsky was lying in wait for him and was prepared to attack him,” Fraser wrote in his report released last Wednesday, March 21, 2018.

“It is unknown if he was aware that Kloschinsky was mentally unstable, but having dealt with him previously he should have been.

“Undoubtedly he thought he could handle him alone. He was wrong and paid with his life.”

Fraser said more caution is needed when peace officers deal with unpredictable individuals.

“No (peace officer) should attend for enforcement, a place where there is a known threat from a specific person or a known mentally unstable person or a known person prone to violence, on his own as officer Lazenby did.”

Fraser recommended municipalities require peace officers to inform dispatchers of their whereabouts and the purpose of their visits. He said there should also be a list of “flagged places” that could present a risk.

He said all officers should receive weapons and officer safety training. They should also be allowed to wear body armour and carry weapons including batons, pepper spray and handcuffs, he said.

Lazenby’s only weapon was a baton since he wasn’t designated a Level 1 officer who could carry more protection.

“Any officer dealing with public enforcement, in my view, should be properly trained for officer safety and weapons training as well as defensive tactics,” Fraser wrote.

Jamie Ericksen, who was vice-president of the Alberta Association of Community Peace Officers when Lazenby was killed, said the officer safety recommendation is key.

“I think we should all have access to the same training and the same tools to protect ourselves,” Ericksen said. “The Level 2s should be mandated to take their defensive tactics, which is basically their self defence.”

Dawn Rault from the Department of Economics, Justice and Policy Studies at Mount Royal University is glad mental health concerns were raised, but suggested the report didn’t deal with a core problem.

“One of the concerns from the inquiry is you don’t know who the person is that you’re interacting with. Because they don’t have access to (the Canadian Police Information Centre), they go up to the residence and they interact with the person, not knowing if they have a past record, if they’re dangerous or if they have weapons in the house,” she said.

A spokesman for Alberta Justice said the recommendations will be reviewed closely.

“We are determining how best to move forward,” said communications adviser Brendan Cox.

– Bill Graveland

News from © Canadian Press Enterprises Inc., 2018

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