On October 14th charges were laid against Progress Alberta journalist Duncan Kinney, allegedly for vandalism of a statue that had occurred one year prior. It's easy to take this event as an isolated incident, and let it colour past and future reporting. It's easy to indict Kinney without his date in court.
But, this event is part of a long series of conflicts, accusations, investigations and rhetoric that is tightly interwoven with police accountability, budgeting and politics.
He may be guilty, he may be innocent. But the process, the players involved and the timeline give this regular watcher of municipal news pause.
Progress Alberta is a "known critic" of the Edmonton Police, and has broken and reported on many stories critical of the Edmonton Police including:
- Chief Dale McFee is the highest paid police chief.
- The EPS have a secret plane and plan to buy another.
- Connor McDavid's stolen laptop required 3 detectives.
- Chief Dale McFee attended a UCP T-Rex fundraiser.
- Progress Report files discreditable conduct report against Chief McFee
Duncan has had public and personal conflicts with the Edmonton Chief of Police and has been an ever-present thorn.
So let's look at a timeline of events, including some major players:
A statue of Roman Shukhevych was vandalized with red tape. No charges were laid for the vandalism.
July 23, 2020
Duncan Kinney writes about the vandalism.
The Ukrainian Youth Unity Complex say that the vandalism is being investigated by the EPS hate crimes unit, but the EPS eventually confirm that it is not being investigated as a hate crime.
September 1, 2020
Progress Alberta, after a fight with EPS, is recognized as accredited media by EPS.
The director of legal services for the Edmonton Police, Geoff Crowe said that "The decision to exclude Progress Alberta from comment by the Edmonton Police Service was provided without reasons and appeared to be arbitrary."
The statue of Roman Shukhevych was vandalized again, and a second monument honouring the 14th Waffen SS Division was also painted with red paint. It has never been established exactly what date this vandalism occurred, but it was before August 10th.
August 10, 2021
Duncan Kinney writes about the vandalism on the Progress Report.
He characterizes the vandalism as "unclear when this happened".
Convoy protests begin in Edmonton (and across Canada). Honking, noise and disruption is very high in Edmonton. The Edmonton police, under scrutiny from the public, issue very few tickets and are seen to be friendly and co-operative with the participants in the convoy.
February 11, 2022
With plans for a disruptive weekend of more convoy protests, the City of Edmonton seeks an emergency injunction against the noise. It is granted. Many, including the City Manager, are optimistic this will quell the disruption for the coming weekend.
It does not.
Duncan Kinney and the Progress Report continue to write very critical reporting of the police handling of this issue.
February 14, 2022
Progress Alberta breaks the story on the secret EPS airplane.
It is widely circulated to many outlets, and further damages EPS credibility at a time when it is already being stretched thin.
Feb 16, 2022
Intense criticism has been levied against the Edmonton Police, who many feel have completely bungled the policing of the convoy protests. The emergency injunction, while granted, was not used nor enforced by the Edmonton Police over the weekend.
Councillors, and the mayor, unable to direct the police, encourage citizens to write the police commission and speak at the meeting on February 17th.
Edmonton Police Commission Chair John McDougall writes an op-ed in the Edmonton Journal, defending the Edmonton Police, arguing that they did a very good job during the protests and essentially quashing any hopes of accountability prior to hearing from the public at the commission meeting on Feb 17.
At a press conference with the EPS, there is a heated exchange between the Chief and Duncan Kinney, who does not believe the police will do anything different at subsequent convoy protests.
Here's @duncankinney's exchange with @DMMcFee today at the self-congratulatory do-nothing presser the EPS threw. We apologize for the weird audio feedback, it happened with multiple people on the call. #yegcc pic.twitter.com/lvyUcMuVNU— The Progress Report (@ProgressAlberta) February 17, 2022
The op-ed is widely panned for being inappropriate including in a counter-op-ed by academic Temitope Oriola.
Feb 17, 2022
At the police commission meeting, many members of the public show up to express discontent with the policing.
Duncan Kinney asks about the op-ed, and commissioner Jodi Callahoo-Stonehouse confirms that the op-ed is the position of the entire commission, and anyone that disagrees can speak up now. No one does.
In a follow-up, Anne Stevenson says she is unable to speak to the media as a commissioner, and begins seeking legal advice. It is notable that the police commission format requires commissioners to support the decisions of the commission publicly, and that only the chair is authorized to speak to media on behalf of the commission.
Feb 24, 2022:
The EPS cuts off Progress Alberta's press credentials. No details were given on the reason why, other than they could "apply to get them" - which Progress Alberta had already done, a year ago.
Mar 3, 2022
The integrity commissioner dismisses a complaint by Edmonton Police Association head Michael Elliot. The complaint asserted that councillor Michael Janz was amplifying "known critics" of the Edmonton Police Service. The Progress Report was identified as one such "known critic".
Mar 17, 2022
At a police commission meeting, Taproot Edmonton and Anne Stevenson asked questions about why press credentials were getting revoked, and the EPS said they would not respond publicly. They did not respond privately either, or give any reason for the revocation.
Stevenson asked if there was any policy that determined which media should and shouldn't have press credentials. There was none.
Jodi Callahoo-Stonehouse announces she's seeking the NDP nomination in Rutherford.
April 22, 2022
Councillor Anne Stevenson, after seeking thorough legal advice regarding what she can and cannot say in public, appears as a guest on the Speaking Municipally Podcast.
She speaks about the lack of openness and transparency on the Police Commission and her preference for the commission themselves drafting recommendations, rather than the police service drafting their own recommendations for approval by the commission.
She also said that she regrets not speaking up during the meeting when Callahoo-Stonehouse pressed the commission to disagree with the chair.
"If I had the information I have now, I definitely would have responded differently."
May 18, 2022:
Jodi Callahoo-Stonehouse, at a city council meeting debating the police funding formula, called for Anne Stevenson's removal from the police commission for "conflict of interest". She alleged that since Stevenson had employed someone critical of police, she was not able to fulfil her role on the police commission without conflict. It is not relevant to the council discussion that day, which was about including photo radar funding in the base police budget.
It's not clear why Stonehouse was even at the meeting, given that the chair was there.
Experts are confused why Stonehouse thinks it's a conflict of interest, and the Mayor says he has full confidence in Stevenson.
June 6, 2022
Ashvin Singh, police commissioner, with an intention to leave his position to move to Vancouver, writes a letter to Mayor Sohi asking him to "investigate" Stevenson for "ethical issues".
In the letter he says Anne Stevenson has tried to "actively influence an investigation" of Duncan Kinney.
It is not clear why a police commissioner would know about an investigation of an individual, and if he did, it seems like telling others, like the mayor about the investigation would violate confidence. Ashvin has never responded to either of these questions.
Despite requests from Kinney's lawyer, there has never been an answer as to whether Kinney was actually under investigation at this time, nor what the purported investigation was for.
It's not clear who leaked this letter to the media.
Mayor Sohi responds has no power to do anything, nor "investigate" this.
Progress Alberta files a complaint with the commission about Singh's letter. Tom Engel, Kinney's lawyer says the police commission closed the investigation after Singh resigned. The police association continue to use the letter from Singh to attack Kinney and Stevenson.
June 10, 2022
Progress Alberta reports that Chief McFee is highest paid Chief in Canada.
October 14, 2022
Charges are laid against Duncan Kinney for one of the two statues that were vandalized. It has now been over a year since Duncan Kinney wrote about it. The charge is "mischief under $5,000".
Very few charges of "mischief under $5,000" are publicized, nor released.
October 25, 2022
News outlets get hold of the charge and write about it. It's not clear the source of this information, whether they were tipped off by Police, Kinney himself, or if an enterprising reporter just spotted it on the court docket.
The timeline of events show an Edmonton Police Commission intent on shutting down those asking difficult questions or seeking accountability for the police, a Police Service and Chief openly hostile to a journalist that regularly reports on police budget and misconduct, a web of accusations and investigations that seem to break and hold confidence at a whim and mischief charges laid on a journalist after nearly a year-and-a-half investigation into a single statue's vandalism.
As far as sniff tests go, something smells rank.
Duncan Kinney will appear in court on Nov 10.