POLITICS

Review of peace officer's death to look at arming workers, putting them in pairs

08/13/2012 08:59 EDT | Updated 10/13/2012 05:12 EDT
CALGARY - Alberta's justice minister says a review into the alleged murder of a peace officer will examine whether he should have been armed and working with a partner.

Jonathan Denis said Monday the review will begin immediately and he doesn't want to make any policy changes until it's complete.

"At this point we don't know if the officer was armed, if that would have actually had an impact or not," he said.

"Basically at this point everything's on the table. But I want to see what the review has to say just so we can make the most educated decision possible for law enforcement, for the public and for the taxpayer."

Retired Mountie Rod Lazenby was responsible for enforcing bylaws in the Municipal District of Foothills. He was working alone, unarmed, when he responded to a dog complaint on a ranch southwest of Calgary last week.

Trevor Kloschinsky, who lived at the property, appeared in court Monday charged with first-degree murder.

The 46-year-old suspect seemed skittish as he appeared via closed-circuit television. It looked like he was hiding behind a wall in the room while he was on camera. Many accused people look into the camera, but Kloschinsky stared at the door silently.

Defence lawyer Steven Jenuth said it was difficult to interview Kloschinsky. Guards had to hold the phone up to his ear.

The case was adjourned for a day and moved from Calgary to Okotoks, Alta., just south of the city.

Kloschinsky's home is in Priddis, Alta., part of the rolling ranching country along what is known as the Cowboy Trail. Neighbours said the property had been at the heart of community tensions in the past. Problems with dogs on the site had been ongoing for a couple of years.

RCMP said there were 20 to 30 blue heelers at the home. The SPCA and Alberta Humane Society are caring for the dogs and trying to find them new homes.

Lazenby was an RCMP officer for 35 years. He had retired in 2006 and had started enforcing bylaws. Peace officers with the Foothills district do not carry guns, but are armed with pepper spray and a baton.

Police say Kloschinsky was known to them, but did not have a criminal record.

Little has been officially released about what happened at the ranch, but RCMP say no shots were fired.

Lazenby was driven to a Calgary police station in medical distress and died later in hospital.

An autopsy was planned for Monday to determine what caused his death.

Denis said he was shocked by the killing, which is believed to be the first death of a peace officer in the province.

In 2002, while with the RCMP, Lazenby was part of an elaborate sting operation in Ottawa in which officers posed as Italian mobsters to try to get a suspect to confess to murder.

In news reports covering the trial, Lazenby described in court how he portrayed Rod Calabria, the ruthless head of an organized crime group, by faking an Italian accent and pretending to lead a lavish lifestyle.

The RCMP has expressed its condolences to Lazenby's family, saying his death would affect law enforcement throughout the province.

Lazenby also supervised an undercover operation in B.C. that helped lead to a conviction of a Merritt man in the 1999 death of Darci Dawn Drefko, 16.

Patrick Fischer was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole for 25 years.

During Fischer's trial in 2001, Lazenby testified how his team posed as members of a criminal organization to win Fischer's confidence.

In the end, the team videotaped Fischer's confession to another officer he believed was a crime boss.

(CHQR, The Canadian Press, Daily News)