A constable accused of assault and racism will be off patrol duty for at least the next month, the Edmonton Police Service said Friday, hours after three human rights groups called for the officer to be reassigned.
A disciplinary hearing for Const. Nathan Downing was adjourned Wednesday after a witness testified she had been arrested by the officer two weeks before she was to testify against him.
“The constable is on a pre-approved leave, and will not be returning until near the end of June,” spokesperson Patrycja Mokrzan said in an email Friday afternoon. “His duty status will be clarified at that time.”
Downing had remained on patrol since he was charged under the Police Act in March 2018 with unlawful or unnecessary exercise of authority and other offences.
The constable is accused of using Islamophobic language and excessive force during a 2015 arrest that left Nasser El Hallak with facial fractures and other injuries.
At Downing’s disciplinary hearing this week, El Hallak’s neighbour, Crystal Fox, testified that she witnessed the assault. She told the hearing that Downing had arrested and charged her two weeks before she was scheduled to testify.
One day later, based on a joint application by counsels for Downing and police chief Dale McFee, the hearing was adjourned and police launched an investigation into Fox’s arrest. She was charged for driving with a suspended licence.
On Friday morning the National Council of Canadian Muslims, the Alberta Muslim Public Affairs Council and Hate Free Yeg urged the police service to remove Downing from patrol duties until Fox’s allegations are investigated.
Downing, who denies the allegations stemming from the 2015 arrest, said he delivered one punch during a struggle to subdue El Hallak.
Downing’s partner that night, Const. Nicholas Talvio, also faces charges at the disciplinary hearing, which is scheduled to resume on July 24.