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Jail sentence appropriate for Calgary police officer who body slammed woman: appeal court

A three-judge Alberta Court of Appeal panel said a former Calgary cop’s jail sentence for body slamming a woman was appropriate, according to a decision published on Wednesday morning.

Alex Dunn was convicted in 2020 in connection with a 2017 incident at Calgary Police Service headquarters, where video evidence showed him throwing a handcuffed woman to the floor.

Surveillance footage confirmed the woman, later identified as Dalia Kafi, had her hands cuffed behind her back when she was thrown. She remained on the ground in a pool of blood after her face struck the floor.

Dunn received a 30-day conditional sentence, which included 15 days of house arrest.

The Crown later successfully appealed the conviction, arguing that the judge didn’t adequately reflect that Dunn was in a position of trust and Kafi was a vulnerable person. The appeal judge then imposed a 30-day jail sentence followed by six months of probation and 75 hours of community service. The jail time was stayed because Dunn had already served the conditional sentence.

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Dunn was dismissed from the Calgary Police Service last November for misconduct under the province’s Police Act.

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Kafi died of a suspected overdose in July 2021.

Dunn filed to appeal the jail sentence on April 5, 2023, and the Calgary Police Association (CPA) was granted intervenor status. According to court documents, Dunn argued that an Ontario Superior Court of Justice case referenced by the first appeal judge “no longer reflects society’s values or its goals of sentencing in response to a police officer’s use of excessive force.”

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Both Dunn and the CPA also argued that the original conditional sentence was appropriate. The CPA added concerns about how the jail sentence will set a precedence for officers who may face “a momentary lapse in judgement or mistake.”

The three-judge panel disagreed with both arguments, saying the jail sentence was appropriate because Dunn assaulted a defenceless person, which resulted in injury.

“This was a violent assault of a slight, handcuffed female prisoner in the police station, who presented no risk of violence or escape,” Wednesday’s decision read.

“The victim was assaulted while she was completely defenceless and injured as a result because, as the trial judge found, the appellant lost his temper.”

The panel also said the 2017 incident was not a situation where a police officer responded inappropriately to danger or when someone was a potential danger to themselves or others.

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“We have in the past acknowledged that split-second decisions made in response to dangerous or violent situations may be wrong, and that any sentence imposed in such cases should reflect that understanding … But it is wrong to think that courts will offer leniency to police officers who abuse their position in the manner that the appellant did,” the decision reads.

The decision went on to say that the law does not authorize police officers to abuse citizens they encounter while executing their duties. The panel said the appeal court has a role to play in restoring confidence in law enforcement and the rule of law.

“To conclude, a police officer convicted of a gratuitous assault that results in injury stands in no better position than does any other citizen convicted of the same offence when it comes to sentence,” the panel wrote.

“Indeed, as the police occupy a position of trust the offence may be regarded as more serious.”

— with files from Ryan White, Global News

&© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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