"Most citizens expect that police officers will do police work and lawyers will do legal work," acting deputy chief Deb Jolly said in a release Friday. "That's just not happening in justice of the peace bail hearings."
It was at a hearing involving officers that career criminal Shawn Rehn was released on $4,500 bail. While free, Rehn shot and killed RCMP Const. David Wynn and severely wounded an RCMP police volunteer as they investigated a routine stolen vehicle complaint in St. Albert north of Edmonton last month.
Court records show it was an Edmonton police officer standing in for the Crown who consented to Rehn's release at his most recent bail hearing.
Documents show Rehn was a violent criminal, in and out of jail over the last 15 years, with 57 convictions for crimes including assaults, break-ins and drug use. A transcript of his final bail hearing mentioned how Rehn was wanted on outstanding warrants and was prohibited from possessing weapons, but makes no mention of his numerous past convictions or his two federal stints in prison.
It's common for police officers to stand in for prosecutors at such hearings.
The Edmonton Police Service says officers conducted 15,441 bail hearings last year — an average of 41 a day.
The service says officers are trained by more experienced veterans to prepare them for the bail process. But often they are legally outgunned.
"The presence of a defence lawyer can result in an unbalanced hearing," Jolly said in an interview. "Our constables do not receive legal training and they don't have an education in the legal system."
The justice system should use staff in a way that best suits their training, she suggested.
Jacobs-Mino said in a statement that Minister Jonathan Denis has already ordered a review of the Crown's handling of Rehn.
"This includes a review of the Crown's involvement in bail processes generally," she said.
"If during the course of this review, other issues are identified, they will be identified along with a recommendation that they be further explored."
The results of the review will be released, Jacobs-Mino said.
No one from the department was immediately available to answer questions.
Jolly said other jurisdictions such as Calgary rely on police officers to handle bail hearings before a justice of the peace. Some jurisdictions only use Crown prosecutors.
The Edmonton force said it has been asking for Crown prosecutors to take over all bail hearings since 2006. Outside of a pilot project in 2008, the provincial government has refused that request.
The RCMP is also reviewing their dealings with Rehn.