Two Lethbridge, Alberta police officers have been temporarily demoted for surveilling the province’s former environment minister because they were upset that her plans to protect a park were interfering with their ATVing.
As first reported by CHAT News Today, Sgt. Jason Carrier and Const. Keon Woronuk are both facing temporary demotions after pleading guilty to a host charges related to corruption and discreditable conduct under Alberta’s Police Service Regulation.
According to a disciplinary decision released July 9, 2020, Carrier and Woronuk spied on former NDP Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips because they were concerned about her plans to create a new provincial park in the Castle area of southern Alberta, rendering it unavailable for off-roading, hunting, fishing, and other activities they both enjoyed.
In a press conference Monday, Phillips questioned the officers’ conduct.
"If an officer in this town or officers are going to place someone under surveillance because they don't agree with them, what does that mean for overall community safety?" she said, as reported by the CBC.
Alberta’s Justice Minister Doug Schweitzer of the United Conservative Party tweeted that the cops’ behaviour was “completely unacceptable.” He said police watchdog, the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, will determine if there are grounds for a criminal investigation.
According to an agreed statement of facts, on April 14, 2017, Carrier and a couple other officers were eating at a diner when they overheard Phillips talking about the plan while seated at a table in front of them with other stakeholders.
Carrier didn’t agree with the restrictions that would be imposed by the park designation. He took a photo of Phillips and the stakeholders and texted it to Woronuk.
“Sgt. Carrier was aware that Cst. Woronuk, like him opposed some of the NDP government policies and did not support Minister Phillips’s policies and Minister of Environment and Parks. Sgt. Carrier assumed Cst. Woronuk would be opposed to any plan to close the Castle area to many of the outdoor activities in which Cst. Woronuk, Sgt. Carrier, and others regularly participated,” the statement of facts said.
Woronuk showed up at the diner and also took a photo of Phillips while Carrier took an additional selfie with Phillips and others in the background.
Outside the diner, Woronuk told Carrier he would “hate to see Phillips drive away from the restaurant and there was a reason to stop her.”
Both cops parked near the diner afterwards.
Woronuk saw one of the stakeholders who’d met with Phillips leave the diner. He followed the person for five blocks to see if they made a driving offence and conducted a search on their license plate, the results of which he sent to Carrier.
“Cst. Woronuk admits that he had no lawful reason to conduct his (Canadian Police Information Centre) search and was motivated to do so by his personal and political views.”
Woronuk also posted a photo of the meeting on Facebook under the user name “Mike Corps,” alongside “a long caption criticizing Minister Phillips and her NDP government,” said the statement of facts.
Phillips complained to police about the photo, which led to an investigation that uncovered Carrier and Woronuk’s actions.
Carrier, who admitted to discreditable conduct and neglect of duty, has been demoted from sergeant to senior constable, from June 24, 2020 under June 23, 2021.
Woronuk has admitted to corrupt practice, discreditable conduct, and deceit, and has been demoted from senior constable level two to constable—class one from June 24, 2020 until June 23, 2022.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.