Ex-Edmonton police officer says she was 'pressured' into dropping complaint against co-worker


Former EPS constable Katherine Nelson, seen in an undated photo.Former EPS constable Katherine Nelson, seen in an undated photo.

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The Edmonton Police Commission is being told to take another look at the case of a former city police officer who claims she was pressured into dropping a complaint against a fellow officer investigating her sexual assault allegation.

Earlier this month, the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board found in favour of Katherine Nelson, an ex-Edmonton Police Service constable who filed complaints against EPS after another member allegedly groped her in her hotel room during a 2016 training session in Green Bay, Wis.

The review board decision, issued Feb. 1, dealt with Nelson’s complaint against a detective in the EPS sexual assault section, who took part in the investigation of the Green Bay incident.

In the complaint, Nelson alleges Det. Marci Koshowski shared text messages from her work phone with Green Bay Police. Nelson says Koshowski suggested the texts were evidence that Nelson and the alleged abuser were in a relationship, which Nelson denies.


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In May 2018, Nelson met with a detective with the police Professional Standards Branch (PSB), which investigates misconduct complaints against officers. Nelson claims the officer — Det. Darren Smith — “pressured” her into dropping the Koshowski complaint. At one point, the EPS crisis team arrived to “assess her (Nelson) for committal under the Mental Health Act,” the review board wrote.

According to the review board — an arm’s length civilian body — Nelson felt “very pressured and upset and agreed, in some way, to drop the complaint as she felt it was futile.”

When Nelson later tried to have the complaint reinstated, police Chief Dale McFee recommended to the police commission that it be dismissed as “vexatious,” a decision the commission upheld.

In its decision, the review board concluded the police commission was wrong to accept McFee’s determination, noting the commission did not receive a full record of Nelson’s PSB interview, during which she was “sniffling, quietly crying, sobbing, sighing, and wiping her face with a tissue.”

“The commission did not have before it enough information to make a determination, it accepted without question the chief’s conclusion that the first complaint was properly withdrawn,” the review board wrote.

‘Everyone was protected’

Nelson joined Edmonton police in 2011. She worked as a Drug Recognition Expert, which entailed frequent travel to training sessions around the United States and Canada.


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In September 2016, during a conference in Green Bay, she claims a superior let himself into her hotel room while she was sleeping and groped her.

Eventually, Nelson made both criminal and Police Act complaints against the officer. The Green Bay Police Department (GBPD) investigated Nelson’s allegation, but the superior was ultimately never charged and has since retired, according to a September 2018 written statement from Nelson.

In February 2018, Nelson filed the complaint against Koshowski “for providing hearsay information to GBPD affecting the validity of (her) sex assault complaint.”

A few months later, on May 23, 2018, Nelson met with Det. Smith at Edmonton police headquarters. According to the review board, during the interview, Smith “repeatedly suggested reasons why the complaint could not succeed and repeatedly raised the issues of criminal charges and (disciplinary) charges against (Nelson) for her conduct in the matter.”

Nelson initially agreed to drop the complaint. In a written statement, Nelson said she felt the complaint “didn’t matter,” and that “every unit was against me and everyone was protected.”

While she waited, Smith repeatedly left the room, claiming he was confirming the forms needed to close the file. Nelson believes he was in fact “stalling” for the Police and Crisis Response Team (PACT) to arrive. Nelson spoke with members of the team, who concluded she could not be detained under “Form 10” — the procedure for involuntarily committing someone to a mental facility.


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Nelson maintains she never signed a complaint withdrawal form, and that Smith acted improperly in attempting to have her drop the complaint. In December 2018, Nelson wrote to the police chief’s office asking the complaint be reinstated.

More than a year later, on May 13, 2020, McFee asked the police commission to dismiss the complaint, saying it was “frivolous and/or vexatious” and a “full repetition” of an earlier complaint. He also said there was no evidence Smith did anything that led Nelson to withdraw her complaint against her will.

‘A rubber stamp’

Tom Engel, Nelson’s lawyer, argued both detectives involved in his client’s complaints took steps that favoured the officers who were the subject of the complaints. He said the case is a “compelling piece of evidence that shows why the police services cannot investigate complaints against their own members.”

He added: “It seems that the Edmonton Police Commission is, based on decisions I’ve seen, basically acting as a rubber stamp for the chief of police.”

Micki Ruth, chair of the police commission, said they will be reviewing the decision at an upcoming meeting.

She acknowledged the review board’s criticism that the commission may have made its decision with incomplete information.

“With any case that we decide, one of the questions that we always ask ourselves is, do we have enough information in front of us?” she said. “While I can’t specifically comment on this particular case, because it’s before us and it’s pending, that’s always the first question that we ask ourselves.”

EPS declined to comment, citing the ongoing proceedings.




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