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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Edmonton cops cleared in taser hearing

January 24, 2009
By Ryan Cormier, The Edmonton Journal

Despite criticism from a superior officer, two policemen were cleared of unnecessary use of force charges for unknowingly Tasering a car thief within moments of each other.

Supt. Mark Logar dismissed the charges Friday morning during the internal disciplinary hearing, but made clear he found the arrest of Hector Jara in April 2004 to be unprofessional and "unsettling."

Const. Darryl Fox and Const. Ryan Sparreboom were two of five officers who arrested Jara when he gave himself up after a lengthy and dangerous pursuit in north Edmonton. Believing Jara may have had a hidden weapon, both officers Tasered him without the other knowing. They were not facing one another when they fired their weapons.

"No matter how I looked at the encounter with Mr. Jara, I remained less than convinced that his arrest was done in a fashion consistent with reasonable standards of professional policing," Logar said. "There was insufficient control, far too much tunnel vision, not enough attention to who was at the scene and no appreciation of what each officer was doing."

However, because of an unclear use-of-force policy in use at the time and the situation surrounding the arrest, Logar found that the charges were not proven.

Jara had led multiple officers on a long pursuit before his arrest, including driving into oncoming traffic and nearly running over Fox as he laid down a spike belt.

The disciplinary hearing heard conflicting testimony about whether Jara resisted arrest, although he willingly got out of his vehicle and laid on the ground.

Jara testified that he laid down with his arms outstretched. Logar accepted that testimony, stating that he put his hands underneath him for self-protection only after officers began to subdue him on the ground. Fox and Sparreboom both testified that they had concerns about a possible weapon because they couldn't see Jara's hands.

In the confusion, Fox inadvertently Tasered the hand of Const. Mike Wasylyshen, which "certainly capped the whole misadventure," Logar said, who also criticized the memory lapses of the officers and lack of notes from the arrest.

Jara, who pleaded guilty to his crimes that night and served time, had similar concerns.

"The biggest thing that bothered me about all this whole story is when each police officer testified in my criminal trial, they all had different stories," Jara said in December.

"These officers all had very different versions of events and it is strange that the only thing they have in common is saying my hands were underneath me and I was kicking."

Jara had eight months taken off his prison sentence because of the controversial arrest.

During the hearing, both Fox and Wasylyshen stated that they no longer carry a Taser because of the controversies that come with it.

A reprimand, the minimum penalty allowable, was issued to Sparreboom on a separate charge of failing to file proper notes on the incident. No criminal charges were files against any officer.

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