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Testimony Heard Regarding Edmonton Police Attempt to Arrest Journalist
New details emerge regarding the November attempt by Edmonton, Canada police to frame a newspaper columnist over his criticism of photo radar.

Sgt. Bill Newton
New details emerged Tuesday in a Royal Canadian Mounted Police inquiry into an Edmonton Police Service attempt to arrest a newspaper columnist over articles that criticized the police. On November 18, 2004, several officers were involved in a stake-out of the Overtime Bar in a failed attempt to arrest Edmonton Sun writer Kerry Diotte and police oversight commission chairman Martin Ignasiak.

Yesterday's disciplinary hearing focused on the head of the traffic section, Sergeant Bill Newton, who is charged with abusing his authority. According to testimony heard yesterday, Newton had been angered by an April 4, 2004 column in which Diotte criticized the city's photo radar program. The column became a hot topic of discussion throughout the police force.

Diotte cited statistics that showed speed cameras raised a lot of money for police but led to an increase, not a decrease, in accidents. "In 2001 alone, city police issued 194,500 speeding tickets," Diotte wrote. "Photo radar and red-light cameras raise about $14 million annually for police. Yet last year fatal collisions jumped to 32 from 20 in 2002."

"You know, I know and the police know that driver error is the main reason crashes occur," Diotte continued. "All the photo radar in the world is not going to correct that core problem."

Two days later, Newton ordered Sergeant Randy Schreiner to access confidential police databases to gather information on Diotte. The database produced a descriptions and details of Diotte's automobile and home. Diotte has no history of drunk-driving.

Using the database information, Newton ordered officers to be on the lookout for Diotte's BMW convertible during a "Target All Drunk Drivers" operation meeting on November 18. Sergeant Glen Hayden then informed Newton that he had seen Diotte at the Overtime Bar on two occasions. Around 6pm that evening, Hayden went to the Overtime, saw Diotte's BMW and called in undercover surveillance from two officers who were part of a squad designed to target a list of 100 "aggressive drivers."

The undercover officers identified Diotte and Ignasiak inside the bar as "Target One" and "Target Two" according to witnesses. Around 8:45pm an "informant" at the bar called officer Darren Smith, who placed a lookout bulletin on Diotte.

Diotte, whom witnesses say was not drunk, took a cab home. Hayden drove to Diotte's home to verify whether he was there or not.

"It was true that we found that vehicle in a bar lot and the potential for serious harm or death was there," Hayden testified, maintaining that he did nothing wrong. An Edmonton Police disciplinary hearing has dropped charges against Hayden.

Source: Fuel for the fire (Edmonton Sun (Canada), 9/21/2005)

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