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Rights + Justice

Some Who Guard Alberta’s Legislature Have Done Crimes

The hiring of four former EPS officers raises questions about the vetting process for security officers. A Tyee investigation.

Charles Rusnell 29 May 2024The Tyee

Charles Rusnell is an independent investigative reporter based in Edmonton.

The Speaker of Alberta’s legislature is refusing to explain how a former Edmonton Police Service officer with a history of violent domestic assault and several other officers with serious disciplinary records came to be hired as part-time security officers at the legislature.

Speaker Nathan Cooper, a United Conservative Party MLA, is ultimately responsible for legislature security. But Cooper refused to respond to three interview requests during the past week.

The Tyee wanted to know if former EPS officer Scott Mugford, and several other former EPS officers, were vetted before they were hired as legislature security officers.

“There is absolutely no way someone with this pattern of behaviour should have anything to do with any law enforcement agency or anything directly related to security,” said former West Vancouver police chief and former British Columbia solicitor general Kash Heed, referring to Mugford.

Having been an MLA, and knowing the security personnel at B.C.’s legislature in Victoria, Heed said that “someone with [Mugford’s] background would never be within their ranks.”

Heed said there would be an “outcry” from MLAs to the sergeant-at-arms and the Speaker “if it became known that they had someone like this within the ranks of that security detail in the legislature in Victoria.” The sergeant-at-arms is responsible for legislature security.

The Tyee also sought comment from Alberta’s sergeant-at-arms through Rhonda Sorensen, the legislature’s director of corporate communications. Sorensen also did not respond to several emails and phone calls.

The Opposition NDP declined to comment.

As reported by The Tyee Tuesday, Mugford pleaded guilty in 2002 to breach of recognizance and to a violent assault of his now former wife. A second charge of assaulting his wife, while he was on probation, was dropped.

The assaults involved verbal abuse, spitting, choking, punching and slamming the woman into a table. The judge handed Mugford a two-year suspended sentence for the assault and an absolute discharge for the breach of recognizance.

Mugford was also never charged for forging his wife’s signature on a credit card loan document while he was on probation for assault. The Crown said it wasn’t in the public interest because there was no financial harm to his former wife.

In all these cases, the EPS disciplined Mugford through pay suspensions ranging from 10 hours to 40 hours, but he was never fired. And after his retirement from EPS, sources say he was again hired in 2016 to work as an emergency communications officer, or 911 operator.

Mugford is now the subject of a formal complaint to Edmonton police Chief Dale McFee for botching a 911 call in 2021 in which Edmonton woman Lyndsay Bruno was murdered. Bruno’s former boyfriend shot her while she was on the phone with Mugford.

An internal EPS review of the incident found Mugford had been negligent, but that even if he had fielded the call according to protocol, it wouldn’t have made any difference in Bruno’s survival. Despite this, Bruno’s family are furious that Mugford was only given a “letter of expectation” for workplace misconduct.

McFee has also not responded to multiple requests from The Tyee to explain if Mugford was vetted, according to posted EPS job standards, before he was hired, and how it came to be decided that a minor written reprimand was sufficient.

It’s not known when Mugford started working as a security officer at the legislature. But the Alberta government’s employee directory shows Mugford is a “team lead” with the legislature security branch.

His manager, Terry Langley, is another former EPS officer who is the legislature’s director of security and ceremonial service. Langley declined repeated interview requests both on Mugford’s and on his own behalf.

Another legislature security officer is Gary MacLean.

The Alberta Police Misconduct Database, created and maintained by an association of lawyers, academics and social justice activists, shows that in 2000, an EPS officer named Gary MacLean was charged with sexual assault with a weapon, unlawful confinement, anal intercourse and assault with a weapon.

The Crown later stayed three of the charges. MacLean pleaded guilty to common assault and was fined $300. He was suspended with pay during the investigation and was demoted from sergeant to constable.

Randy Goss is another security officer at the legislature. Goss and Mugford worked together as EPS dog handlers.

In 2010, an EPS internal disciplinary hearing officer demoted Goss from sergeant to constable for two years after he was found guilty on two counts of discreditable conduct.

In an unprecedented case, Goss was demoted for drunk driving and lying to his superior officer even though he had not been criminally charged or convicted.

Cheryl Wallin is another legislature security officer. The police misconduct database shows that in 2010, Wallin, then a sergeant, was charged with impaired driving and operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol level over the legal limit. She was given an absolute discharge.

“I do worry about the quality of personnel guarding our elected leaders,” University of Alberta criminologist Temitope Oriola said, adding that there clearly needs to be more emphasis on screening.

In 2021, the UCP government hired Oriola as an adviser for its review of the Police Act, the provincial legislation that governs police in Alberta.

Oriola said it is common for police officers who get into trouble to benefit from the leniency of the police services that employ them, and the leniency of prosecutors and judges.

“So when they keep recycling these individuals, they’re doing fundamental damage to the moral fibre of such organizations,” Oriola said.

“And we are ultimately putting the public and, in this case, elected officials at risk.”

If you have any information for this story, or information for another story, please contact Charles Rusnell in confidence via email.  [Tyee]

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