Police Chief Dale McFee of Edmonton has met defeat in his attempt to dismiss Constable David Ahlstrom, who had been found guilty of petty theft while in service. Ahlstrom was arrested back in 2017, charged with three instances of theft, each less than $5,000.
In 2016, Ahlstrom had been assigned to oversee a homicide scene and ended up pocketing $300 from the location. He later confessed to his superiors and the stolen amount was properly entered into the record. Subsequently placed on administrative duties and facing an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, Ahlstrom further demonstrated indifference towards probity during a couple of 2017 “integrity tests”. He was found whisking away $25, two $50 gift cards, $88 in cash and a packet of cigarettes, as confirmed by court proceedings.
Ahlstrom pleaded guilty to two counts of breaching trust as a public officer, and was sentenced 18 months’ probation, along with a penalty of $400 in victim fines. Following this, he was charged under the Police Service Regulation for 10 counts of misconduct which included dishonesty, insubordination, neglect of duty, and other dishonourable conduct. In response, Ahlstrom admitted guilt on all accusations.
Despite the presiding officer advocating for Ahlstrom’s dismissal, the disgraced officer carried his case to the Law Enforcement Review Board (LERB). The LERB ruled in favour of Ahlstrom, allowing him to resume policing duties, albeit with a rank reduction from “Senior Constable Level 1-8 Years to Constable 4th Year” for two years.
The LERB found fault in the judgment of the presiding officer, noting it lacked justification, clarity, and transparency. Also mentioned was the officer’s struggle with post-traumatic stress and major depressive disorders, aspects the presiding officer had arguably overlooked when passing judgment.
The decision did not sit well with Police Chief McFee, who sought to have the LERB’s ruling overturned by the Court of Appeal of Alberta and Justice Jolaine Antonio. Although Justice Antonio identified concerns in the LERB’s decision to demote Ahlstrom for two years, she resisted McFee’s efforts due to the nature of the appeal not addressing any significant legal queries, the precedent of which was firmly established.
Following Justice Antonio’s ruling, Ahlstrom was put on unpaid leave during the subsequent hearings. Edmonton police station presently awaits the outcome of the appeal and will appoint next actions accordingly. According to McFee, while he stands by his original decision, he accepts the hearing officer’s ruling and is prepared to move forward.