EPS officer suspended without pay for releasing police dog on teenage girl

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An Edmonton police officer has been given a pay reduction for allowing a police dog to bite a 16-year-old girl during a wrongful arrest.

Const. Antonio Costa was given a 50-hour suspension without pay and ordered to take remedial training for the May 2017 arrest, which left the youth with serious injuries to her arm.

Costa was a member of the Edmonton police canine unit at the time of the arrest. According to a disciplinary decision released Wednesday, he was asked to assist with an early morning assault call on May 14, 2017, during which two men allegedly entered a house near 112 Avenue and 91 Street and sprayed bear spray at the occupants.

The two men — who were described as wearing red hats and red running shoes — escaped on BMX bikes.

Costa and his police dog arrived in the area and saw several people on bikes headed eastward. The disciplinary decision does not specify which dog Costa was partnered with that night, though the EPS website says he is the handler for PSD Amok, a Belgian Malinois.

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After spotting the cyclists, Costa saw a group on foot near 114 Avenue and 91 Street and pulled up beside them. Though the group did not have bicycles, Costa told them they were under “investigative detention.” After hearing this, the group scattered, and Costa released his police dog.

The dog chased the 16-year-old girl — identified in the decision as “BB” — and bit her on the right forearm. She was taken to the Stollery Children’s Hospital, where she was treated for puncture wounds.

BB was later charged with obstruction. The charges were eventually dropped after Costa admitted he did not have sufficient grounds to make the arrest.

Costa was initially charged with eight counts of misconduct under the Police Act, including neglect of duty and insubordination. He pleaded guilty to two counts of unlawful or necessary use of authority.

The defence and prosecution agreed to a 50-hour suspension without pay, which Costa will serve in five-hour increments. Fred Kamins, the retired RCMP superintendent who presided over the hearing, formally imposed the sentence last month. Costa must also undergo remedial training on arrest powers and investigative detention.

Kamins said aggravating factors in the case include “the injury to Ms. BB and the seriousness of interfering with someone’s liberty,” while crediting Costa with pleading guilty and maintaining an otherwise “blemish free” record.

In 2017, Edmonton police dogs came into contact with people on 96 occasions. In 2019, the last year for which data was available, there were 89 “contacts” between police dogs and the public.

Last year, three officers were cleared of wrongdoing in connection with dog bite injuries Lorraine Cardinal suffered during a 2015 arrest.

The Edmonton Police Association declined to comment on the Costa case.



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