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07:26

Edmonton police chief wants Alberta-wide approach to naming homicide victims

Edmonton police Chief Rod Knecht says Alberta police agencies should be “singing from the same songbook” when it comes to releasing the names of homicide victims.

Knecht was pushed on the force's policy on naming homicide victims at a coffee session Monday with reporters at southwest division headquarters, 1351 Windermere Way SW.

While the department’s longstanding practice has been to name those killed in Edmonton homicides with few exceptions, nearly half of 2017 homicide victims have had their names withheld by police.

Different police agencies have different policies on naming victims.

RCMP K Division has indicated a shift away from withholding victims' names in the interest of transparency. Calgary police, with few exceptions, continue to release the names of victims.

"There's nothing on our radar as far as changing that," said Calgary police spokeswoman Emma Poole. 

Knecht said he plans to raise the issue with the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police.

He said there should be a province-wide approach, "so what's being released in Calgary is the same that's being released in an RCMP jurisdiction, that's being released in Lethbridge, that's being released in the Blood Tribe, that's being released in Edmonton." 

"We should have some consistency here. This is obviously something the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police has to have a discussion about, because we should have one policy, so (the media) aren't confused, the public isn't confused and quite frankly our police officers aren't confused either." 

Knecht said his force is trying to balance the privacy rights of victims with the public's right to know, as well as comply with freedom of information and privacy (FOIP) legislation.

"We've talked to the FOIP people who tell us, specifically, the Edmonton Police Service were maybe a little loose on providing names" in the past, he said.

Timing, transparency concerns


Victims' advocate Jane Orydzuk, whose son was a homicide victim in 1994, said her issue is timing. 

"For the public to learn the victims' names almost the same day we do, I find it's unfair," she said. "As victims, we've just been told a loved one has been murdered; we need time to absorb that information."

"I think eventually they have to release the names," she added.

Edmonton has recorded 17 homicides to date in 2017. Police have withheld the names of eight victims, six of them domestic homicides.

Sean Holman, a journalism professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, said naming homicide victims helps the public scrutinize the work of law enforcement.

It also helps identify societal trends that might otherwise go unnoticed. 

"There's some kind of symptom that (homicide) is an indicator of, whether that's organized crime or domestic violence," he said. "It can point to other issues."

jwakefield@postmedia.com

source : Calgary SUN
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