December 16 update: I’ve just received an email from the city of Edmonton Police Department’s chief, Rod Knecht, in response to mine, in which I sent a link to this post, and in response to everyone else who really hated his decision to promote Mike Wasyly-shen when, you know, most cops would have got fired…. I have embedded his response exactly as I myself received it, as a docx attachment: https://marnietunay2.wordpress.com/?attachment_id=2820 and, as a service to readers who are understandably wary of downloading stuff from people they don’t know well, I am also copying out here in full the contents of Chief Knecht’s email, including the boldface that is actually in the letter. The only changes I’ve made are to put his words in italics and to put quote marks at the beginning of every paragraph, so as to make it really clear that Knecht’s words are his and not mine:
“Thank you for your email inquiry regarding the recent promotion of Mike Wasylyshen. Edmonton Police Service employees had questions that were similar to yours, so I distributed the following message to them on Wednesday, December 10. Note that a reference to “Chiefs Committee” is made several times; this is our senior leadership group within the EPS.
I trust this message will answer any questions you might have. If you require additional information, please contact me via email.
Chief Rod Knecht
“A number of questions have been raised about our recent decision to promote Mike Wasylyshen to the position of Sergeant. Questions were initiated as the result of one of our employees taking a photograph of the promotion list from EPS Net and sending it to the CBC. This triggered a flurry of media inquiries and emails to my office. The story was broadcast nationally in the context of the recent officer-involved fatalities in Ferg-uson and New York City, to allude that the Edmonton and American circumstances were somehow similar.
“In 2002 and 2005, Sgt. Wasylyshen committed a number of acts that were, in any polic-ing environment, totally unacceptable. Had he committed these acts today, he would be the subject of the most severe of disciplinary action, and likely would have lost his job. However, his actions took place nearly a decade ago, or more, with a different admin-istration at the helm – and a different culture.
“As part of the review of his actions, two separate processes took place –criminal investigations and Professional Standards Branch (PSB) investigations. For the 2002 incident, in which he tasered a young Aboriginal male several times, there were Police Service Regulation consequences. For the 2005 matter, which involved an altercation on Whyte Avenue, there were criminal and PSR consequences. Over the period of several years, Sgt. Wasylyshen was subsequently sanctioned by independent Presiding Officers and by the Criminal Justice System. By any reasonable standard, the delays in process were extreme, and unreasonable.
“Last year, Sgt. Wasylyshen was denied the opportunity to participate in the promotion process, as the very last of his hearings and appeals had recently concluded. When he applied to participate in this year’s promotion process, Chief’s Committee reviewed his file at length and debated the issues within the context of the ten year period. Chief’s Committee recognized that the incidents, while severe in nature, were dated. They determined that he had served his punishment, and allowed him to participate in the promotion process.
“What was unanimously compelling for Chief’s Committee was the progress that this member had made over the previous ten years in getting his life in order. He is now married with children and, from all accounts, has stopped drinking. In the recent promotional process, he scored high marks in the majority of categories. His off-duty and on-duty attributes, actions, and attitude, demonstrated real change – and a readiness for a leadership role in this organization.
“Which takes us to the heart of the issue – how long should a person have to pay for mistakes they made years ago – especially when it is a member of a profession that is held to a higher standard. Is ten years too long, or is it not long enough? At what point does an organization forgive what someone has done, and allow them to move forward with their career? Should we have waited yet another year, another five, or another ten, to allow this individual to apply for a promotion?
“The political answer, and the easiest answer, would have been to wait for the next administration to deal with Sgt. Wasylyshen’s promotability. The principled answer was to recognize that Sgt. Wasylyshen had paid, and continues to pay, the price for his actions, and allow him to proceed with his career . . . and that is what is being done.
“As recently as this past Monday, we reached out to the Aboriginal Community, to address some of the concerns they have with this promotion. Sgt. Wasylyshen has agreed to be a willing participant in discussions with the First Nation’s Community this Friday.
“While I can completely understand that there are some that believe the actions of this member should permanently preclude him from being in a supervisory position, there are very few of us that have had to re-live the consequences of their actions for as long – and as publicly. Perhaps one does not have to forget what was done, but one certainly can forgive.
“It is not lost on any of us that this may not have garnered the level of interest, if not for the familiarity of Sgt. Wasylyshen’s surname.
“Sgt. Wasylyshen is the first to recognize that all eyes, internal and external to the Edmonton Police Service, will be on him. This is his best opportunity to demonstrate what he is really made of.
Chief Rod Knecht”
My reply to the Chief’s email of today, December 16. (pub. 10:47 AM):
Re: “It is not lost on any of us that this may not have garnered the level of interest, if not for the familiarity of Sgt. Wasylyshen’s surname.” You people are the ones who think his name is special, Chief Knecht. I think you are completely clueless as to the real nature of the negative feedback you’ve received. It’s not about his name. It’s about a cop who has screwed up, not just one time in one way, but several times in different ways, over a long period of time. It says ‘guy who should have been fired’ to the rest of us. I think this is the most inflammatory thing you say in your email, Chief Knecht. The suggestion that the rest of us only care about this because Wasylyshen’s daddy was chief just really frosts me.
Re: “”While I can completely understand that there are some that believe the actions of this member should permanently preclude him from being in a supervisory position,” Wow. Way to spin the negative feedback, Chief. We don’t think he should be “precluded from a supervisory position.” We think he should have been fired. Other police depart-ments don’t have cops with criminal records, Chief Knecht. Mike Wasylyshen makes me ashamed to be an Edmontonian.
Re: “The principled answer was to recognize that Sgt. Wasylyshen had paid, and continues to pay, the price for his actions, and allow him to proceed with his career” He shouldn’t have had a career anymore as a cop. He got his wrist slapped. He got 30 hours more of a suspension for repeatedly tasering an unconscious man than another cop got for improperly storing his weapon, he paid fines and got a criminal record which doesn’t seem to be impeding him any.
Re: “This is his best opportunity to demonstrate what he is really made of.” Well, we think we’ve already seen ‘what he’s made of.” Mike Wasylyshen has already “demon-strated what he’s made of” in a range of bad behaviors over the years as a cop. I would not agree to be in the same room as him. I’d be afraid that he might ‘go off’ again and hit me or worse. And the message I get from you is that he’d get away with it, too. Oh, sure, there’d be a wrist-slap, but he’d cry and you’d give him a sixth chance, if he even got caught.
Re: “”Which takes us to the heart of the issue – how long should a person have to pay for mistakes they made years ago – especially when it is a member of a profession that is held to a higher standard” He didn’t deserve to get any of the ‘second chances’ he got all those years. A ‘higher standard.’ Exactly. Cops who repeatedly taser unconsious people, who punch out cripples, and threaten Good Samaritans, who lie to judges, should be fired for any one of those things!! What don’t you get about this, Chief Knecht?! I hate him for tasering that man. And I’m not even native, I’m white. It’s not about race. It’s about justice, and accountability, concepts you and he know nothing about, in my opinion. I’m not going to go out of my way to to help the police in any manner from now on. Your email has just made me even angrier.
[And see my original response, which still holds, below]:
December 14 update: Here’s the Edmonton Journal’s whitewashed account of Mike Wasylyshen’s promotion to sergeant:
which somehow neglects to mention that the “drunken” youth Mike Wasylyshen tasered repeatedly was actually unconscious at the time; the “man on crutches” Wasylyshen assaulted wasn’t committing a crime, just trying to catch a cab; and, most inexcusably missing from the Journal’s article, that Wasylyshen got caught out lying to a judge.
The Journal’s article, as well as this follow-up article from the CBC:
give air time to Police Chief Rod Knecht’s claim that Wasylyshen has “proved himself ready for promotion” and that the EPS is “trying to make a principled decision.”
Here’s what’s wrong with that story, Chief Knecht: Nobody but you and your cronies think that Wasylyshen deserved to get those third, fourth and fifth chances he was handed on a silver platter, first, from his old man, who was chief at the time ol’ Mikey tasered a man who was unconscious six times, and then, from the rest of you good ol’ boys down at the station. The fact of his continued presence on the force has stuck in the craws of the rest of us for years. I’m sure it was in the back of the minds of at least some of the city council members who refused to give you all the funds you asked for this week. I know I actually feel abhorrence at the thought of lifting a finger to push politicians to give you any more money, which I have done in the past. I honestly feel you don’t deserve it, with this major act of disrespect for those of us who obey the laws in Edmonton and expect the cops of all people to do so as well.
In rightly-working law enforcement, cops with criminal records don’t get promoted; they get fired.
Step right up folks! It’s the city of Edmonton Police Service free-pass carnival! Take a number and place your bets: what will get former police chief Bob Wasylyshen’s number one son Mike fired? Will it be his act of repeatedly tasering an unconscious teenager?
How about, punching out a cripple whose big crime was trying to hail a cab?
Ha ha ha NO!!
Well, then, surely, threatening to burn down the house of a good Samaritan would do it? Or, lying to a judge?
You’d think so, but, no. Promoted, in fact, as the CBC has learned:
Way to give the ol’ middle-finger salute to the people who ultimately pay your salaries, coppers.
If I knew something about a crime and I was asked to speak about it to Edmonton Police Sergeant Mike Wasylyshen, I would refuse to do so.
If my car broke down on a cold winter’s night-highway, and Mike Wasylyshen offered me a lift, I’d say ‘no.’ I would prefer to take my chances on a total stranger, because, the one thing I know for sure about Wasylyshen is, if he took it into his head to hurt me, he’d probably get away with it.
As a law-abiding citizen of Edmonton, I feel personally affronted that Wasylyshen is still a cop. My good will towards the Edmonton Police Service, which was high, has dropped to zero.
And, gauging from the public response to that CBC exclusive from yesterday, I’m guessing this is going to come back to bite the Service in more ways than one.
P.S. Dec. 05, 2014, afternoon: Mike Wasylyshen got a 120-hr suspension for repeatedly tasering an unconscious First Nations teenager; (and that’s all that happened to Wasyly-shen for his bad act.) Whereas, another Edmonton cop, Const. Sam Najmeddine, received a 90-hour suspension yesterday, just for improperly storing his Taser: http://www.edmontonjournal.com/news/edmonton/Edmonton+police+officer+handed+hour+suspension/10440513/story.html
So, what I get from this is, that it helps to be white and to be the chief’s kid. And, that native lives are cheap.