Edmonton man loses bid to see police face disciplinary charges

An appeal launched by an Edmonton man who claimed he was the victim of excessive use of force by police has been dismissed by the Alberta Law Enforcement Review Board. 

Joe DiGiuseppe filed a formal complaint with the Edmonton Police Service after the October 2015 incident, but the chief ultimately determined disciplinary charges were not warranted. He concluded the officers’ use of force was “reasonable and necessary” under the circumstances.

On Thursday, the LERB issued a 35-page decision stating, “We find the chief’s disposition to be reasonable.” 

DiGiuseppe’s ordeal began when he was pulled over by Edmonton police in a high-risk vehicle stop. Officers acting on a tip thought they were taking down a man with a gun. 

DiGiuseppe wasn’t armed, but officers didn’t know that at the time. 

Video from a police helicopter shows DiGiuseppe getting out of his vehicle and walking toward six officers behind cover and pointing two rifles and four service revolvers. The canine unit was also on the scene. 

The tension escalated further when DiGiuseppe reached into his jacket pocket. 

He pulled out a phone, but said he panicked when officers began to yell directions at him.  

Joe DiGiuseppe describes how being arrested by Edmonton police in a case of mistaken identity changed his life in 2015, leaving him with PTSD, unable to work. 2:18

A lawyer representing police told the LERB the officers felt they were “in a potentially dangerous situation and they had no choice but to take down and restrain the appellant as fast as possible.”

The video shows officers pushing DiGiuseppe onto the hood of a police vehicle as they try to handcuff him. 

DiGiuseppe said he briefly lost consciousness and sustained a concussion when his head hit the ground.

He was kicked three or four times by one of the officers and sustained four breaks to three ribs. He was handcuffed and put in the back of a police cruiser, but released half an hour later after police determined DiGiuseppe did not have a weapon. 

“It is extremely unfortunate that the incident led to the appellant being fearful and confused and that he was injured, the LERB decision states, adding, “The evidence from multiple officers was that the appellant continued to resist.” 

The three-person panel agreed with the chief that the use of force was necessary for safety reasons.

Injuries sustained during arrest including wrist marks from handcuffs. (Joe DiGiuseppe )

“Considering the circumstances as a whole, including the report of a firearm, the appellant’s actions and the force used by multiple officers, the chief’s reasons were intelligible, transparent, justifiable and reasonable.”

Last November, DiGiuseppe told CBC News he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been unable to work since the incident. 

Two years ago, DiGiuseppe and his wife Audrey filed a $325,000 lawsuit against police, alleging mistreatment by the arresting officers. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In a statement of defence filed by the officers, all allegations made by the DiGiuseppe’s are denied. 

DiGiuseppe and his lawyer declined comment this week on the LERB decision. 

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