Stench from apparent police cover-up won’t go away

The story that broke in the Calgary Herald this morning is remarkable for a Canadian police department in this day and age.

The piece written by staffer Suzanne Wilton, details a memo written by then Inspector, now Deputy Chief Jim Hornby of the Calgary Police Service to then Deputy Chief Rick Hanson.

The first paragraph of the memo is striking:

“As per our conversation, I have a situation where I believe an officer’s notebook has been modified improperly that may bring the Service into disrepute. This surrounds an application for a search warrant and the grounds required to obtain it.”

Especially troubling is the fact that the warrant was returned empty. In other words, the warrant to search for a grow-op was granted based on information that was, at least in part, fabricated and the police found nothing. Which isn’t terribly surprising given the family who lived in the rented house are Joe and Jane Six-pack who run a small business refinishing furniture not growing marijuana. They don’t even use marijuana.

The raid occurred in September of 2000, nearly six years ago. Since then, the mom of the family, Nancy Killian Constant, has been desperately trying to find answers to determine why members of the Calgary Police Service forcibly entered her home at gunpoint and ordered her and her family to the floor.

She has gone through the police complaints procedure, the Law Enforcement Review Board and has launched a lawsuit. And so far, she hasn’t even received anything that might resemble an answer, let alone an apology.

The memo, a “smoking gun” that clearly demonstrates the Calgary Police knew they screwed up badly, was written by Hornby in December of 2000, three months after the events and still the management of the police department are dodging and obfuscating refusing to admit they were wrong.

This is unbelievable and this is wrong.

The search arose out of a landlord / tenant dispute which the landlord, Rocco Terrigno and his son, Michael, attempted to bully their way into their rented house late at night after the kids had been put to bed. Killian Constant’s husband blocked the Terrigno’s path and Michael tumbled backwards over a plant on the front steps.

He called the police alleging he had been assaulted. The police officer who attended, Cst. Ian Vernon, was a rookie. Despite the fact there was clearly no evidence to support a charge of assault against the husband, he was charged by Vernon with assault. This charge was later dropped by the Crown as it should have been.

A couple of days later Vernon got a warrant, supported by an Information to Obtain that alleged grounds that can only charitably be described as thin. I have read the ITO and in my opinion the warrant should not have been granted. There’s not a chance in hell that it would have been in Vancouver, but recognizing that Calgary is a different jurisdiction, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say the grounds were thin.

Now we know of this memo from Hornby which says that Vernon altered his notebook to aid in obtaining the warrant. So, we go from thin grounds to fabricated evidence and six years later the Calgary Police Service still won’t say they are sorry for forcibly entering a family’s home late at night, ordering a family to the floor at gunpoint and finding absolutely nothing.

A review of this file has since been ordered and Inspector Brian Whitelaw has now laid a variety of service offences against a number of officers involved in the obtaining and executing the warrant. Those allegations have yet to be heard and certainly those officers, including Vernon, Hornby and Vernon’s supervisor, Sgt. Carl DeSantis, who counseled Vernon in how to put together his first ITO, are entitled to mount a defence.

Having said that, the stench from this just will not go away unless and until Killian Constant gets some answers and finally hears an apology. And every day that passes without that diminishes all the good things the hard-working members of the Calgary Police Service do day in and day out.

Leo Knight

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  1. I saw this piece in the Herald and what is troubling to me and what stood out the most is the statement (aside from the other obvious honesty and integrity issues with this whole thing):

    “If the defence recognizes the change and learns a warrant was obtained in this manner, it could have serious repercussions on any testimony Const. Vernon may give, now or in the future,”

    Now, maybe I’m just naive but I’ve always worked from the premise that the facts are the facts and the evidence is the evidence. It’s not for anybody to re-tool either to retrofit to an agenda, self preservation or otherwise. Isn’t there a clear obligation to release this information to the defence and not just hope they don’t find out by sheer folly?? It’s that what keeps integrity in the system??

    I am of the opinion that the process is designed to put up as many walls as is possible draining the will and economics of the complainant. In essence, time and taxpayer money is spent hiding the truth based on an agenda of subterfuge for CPS self preservation disregarding the validity of the complaint. It flies in the face of the intended spirit of the process. And as I’ve said many, many times the process is only as good as the people managing it. It’s disheartening. Most people will walk away as it is deemed an exercise in futility to fight the “machine”. It’s a David and Goliath battle of epic proportions with all inherent frustrations.

    Individuals like Mrs. Killian-Constant, who have the tenacity to see it through, are unfortunately deemed to be “harassing”, at the end of the day, good law enforcement when those clearly in the wrong finally run out of their bag of tricks and are put to the wall. I’d be interested to know just how many people have had the temerity to take the fight to this point.

    It’s an abomination, it’s wrong, it’s unjustifiable and the hard cold fact is Mrs. Killian-Constant is absolutely correct, in my opinion — an apology is an empty gesture without full accountability. Let’s hope her diligence and hard work pays off!

    CPS does a disservice to the hard working honest cops of this city by continuing to play out this charade. I know first hand that CPS is populated with a majority of good cops who take their jobs seriously and do it by the book. I have an abundance of respect for these men and women who every day put their lives on the line for us. That has never changed. I know how hard detectives work to bring justice and order to our world by righting the wrongs. At the end of the day the brush strokes will be broad and those who bust their asses for the citizens of this city will be painted in the same light. It’s just fundamentally wrong on every level and serves to destroy all public confidence in those who are our moral gatekeepers for a few “bad apples”.


  2. What would the citizens of Calgary expect from police brass that investigate their own with no one to investigate them? no one with balls anyway.I love the comment from the ever fearsome Madeleine King “Killian Constant’s complaint is very much on the commissions radar”.Is that so? I ask if it’s on the “radar” because you’re fulfilling your civic obligation by allowing this charade to go on? When does the so called “police commission” step in and let the police service know that they did wrong and that they are actually being held accountable-for once? problems on your “radar” are not always troubling I guess-especially when the troubles involve cops from the Calgary police service.maybe, this is a “radar” that picks up civilians that are “harrassing” the police service because they refuse to be intimidated and bullied,to go away, by Calgary cops.HHMMM?

    It seems to me that,over the years, the Service and their watchful eye the “commission” have managed to keep the public in the dark about issues that would otherwise cause Calgarians to take notice, rise up and challenge the integrity,values and intentions of their political freaks me to know that these same leaders have been graciously rewarded with promotions and allowed to hold such honorable positions of power in our society.Isn’t, then, deputy chief Rick Hanson now a superintendent with the RCMP? chilling! to say the least! UH OH! the splatter is starting to head towards the Solgen’s office!

    I’m sure there are alot of hard working cops who don’t deserve to be tarnished because of the questionable practice(s) of their leaders.However,it is very difficult not to do so when their leaders are setting such atrocious examples.Hopefully this won’t have any impact on the number of would-be applicants looking to join the Calgary police service in the up coming years.

    Since Calgary city officials have decided to retain the 1% GST rebate inteded for their citizens they can redirect the funds to pay a commission that’s willing to do the right thing.God knows this won’t be the last time we hear about problems coming out of the Calgary police service!!

    Eyes wide shut

  3. I from personal expierence know that the Calgary Police Commission has had information in their possession for years documenting the systamatic abuse of employees by some senior police officers and has done nothing about it….despite the fact that the evidence before them is conclusive and was supported with direct testimony by 7 members of the service.

    Interesting that once again Carl DeSantis is involved in yet another abuse of a citizen of Calgary, I thought he saved it for his peers and subordinates.

  4. From the Calgary Herald, Letters to the Editor, July 1, 2006.

    Sleepless in Calgary? Not the sergeants.

    POLICE*Re: “Police probe officer Fatique,” June 26.

    I am the wife of a Calgary police officer. It seems to be a waste of statistical information if the study is not done on our street constables.

    The sergeants they will be studying do not have to go to court, they are not supposed to be arresting bad guys, and another sergeant comes in at a scheduled time so they rarely have to work overtime.

    Sergeants never have to do continuity on a crime scene or a suspect because they are never directly involved in arrests.

    A sergeant’s role is to manage his men and not make immediate decisions when faced with violence or even possible death.

    A sergeant is locked on the other side of the computer getting information after it happens.

    The street constables constantly have their shifts changed, morning court after a night shift and then back to work earlier because of another shift change.

    My husband doesn’t take time off to get more sleep because the streets are already short on police and he worries about the people he needs to protect as well as his partner.

    Asking for time off when manpower is so short is a whole issue in itself. One has to wonder why the police department is so quick to divert the study towards the management area which they know is not as sleep deprived.

    Is there a fear the public may find that the cop driving down the street late at night is as impaired by lack of sleep as the drunk leaving the bar?

    Joanne Major, Calgary

  5. Here’s another way of looking at the “stench” issue.

    How would you feel if you were Ian Vernon and you woke up to a story in the Calgary Herald where a Deputy Chief stuck a knife in your back 2 miles deep, in order to protect his good buddy Carl Desantis? Basically, Jim Hornby’s memo calls Ian dishonest, a liar and says that his future testimony in court, the LERB and anywhere else for that matter, is tarnished forever. No longer credible.

    Carl Desantis has his fingerprints all over this. He was Ian Vernon’s sergeant at the time. I don’t think that Ian even wrote the whole ITO. Carl pulled this thing off – and Ian is the one who is going to get dragged through the mud for it. Not to say that Ian doesn’t bear some responsibility for his actions – IF he actually did anything wrong. But why isn’t Carl Desantis being scrutinized more over this?

    Its known throughout CPS that Jim Hornby ‘protects’ Carl. This explains why it takes over 5 years to get to the LERB. This explains why CPS seems to keep stalling and stalling and stalling…..This process is called ‘moneying-em-to-death.’ Remember the drunk-driving allegations involving Carl in 2004 that just seemed to fade away? Something stank with that one too.

    So, its kind of obvious that Jim Hornby wants Ian to take the final fall for this scandal to protect Carl Deasantis’ and CPS’ ass. All this and so much more (and at the taxpayers expense -Bennett/Jones doesn’t come cheap).

    Chances are, the only chance Ian has of saving his career is to roll on his old boss and tell everyone what really happened with that ITO. I get the impression that there is a lot more to this Desantis/Terrigno connection, too.

    A real shame.

  6. A search warrant executed . . .
    Legal wranglings for six years now
    No end in sight . . . civil claim apparently progressing . . .

    Anyone have any idea the cost of all of this to Joe Citizen?

    Dam good thing Joe has deep pockets, eh Jack!!

  7. I stand to be corrected, but I’m sure it’s standard that no apology be issued when one is in the process of being sued. In which case, it’s disengenuous to call for an apology at this point. That will have to come when the suit is over…and even then, depending on the outcome.

  8. I think the point was six years ago an apology with accountability was more than acceptable by this family’s own admission. What they were offered was an apology without accountability. That was unacceptable.

    Six years later, and how much money spent in a legal fight by both sides, an apology still isn’t enough and still there is no accountability.

    They’ve dug a hole of deceit and now they are fighting to find a way out of what they have created by using every legal barrier and smoke screen they can find.

    Stranger, they are still avoiding that accountability in the face of hard proof of deceit. There’s the difference. The proof is no longer in-house. It’s public. The core of the issue has fundamentally changed. Now, it’s a full scale cover-up.

    Had this been managed with integrity six years ago this would not be an issue today. Our tax dollars again hard at work. Bets are on that Hornby will retire before this can affect his pension and professional reputation. It’s a sad day at CPS again.

  9. What these people need is another website that monitors their internal stench.It’s the only way to get the attention of the chief and the dumb,deaf,blind city politicians.

    I commend the people behind the standfirm and code200 websites.I read the information and wasn’t surprised,especially now,in light of recent events.

    If someone was ever to do that again,I would definately share what I’ve learned recently about some TAC team officers.

    This cop shop is out of control and the current manager needs to get at grip or find a new job.One that he can handle.

    Joe, Calgary

  10. “If we had corruption issues in the province we’d be the first saying we absolutely have to have independent investigators, but corruption doesn’t exist in Calgary,” said police association president Al Koenig.

    No corruption in Calgary.


    I have no idea what planet Al Koenig is on, since he’s the one who is always telling everyone how “corrupt” CPS managers are. He also personally commissioned a CPA survey that garnered the proof on how corrupt and sleazy things are inside CPS – especially the Chief’s office. Calgary Herald has documented this too.

    No corruption in CPS or anywhere else in Alberta, says Al.


    How about Kirk McCallum’s little Ponzi scam that involved several senior officers? Some of which got their money out of the scam before it collapsed? The one that Internal Affairs is STILL supposedly investigating?

    How about a drug unit detective that lost over 25,000 dollars worth of “flash money” on 2 seperate occasions?

    How about the now infamous Elbow Drive raid where an innocent family gets guns stuck in their faces, because of a fraudulently obtained search warrant? Where the father gets falsely accused of an assault he didn’t commit? Based on “information” from an extremely questionable source? Maybe an organized crime figure?

    No corruption in Calgary?

    How about officers getting disciplined and harassed for not meeting their traffic ticket quota? The one that Jack Beaton says doesn’t exist?

    Either Al has very selective memory, or he doesn’t have his facts straight.

    As for Nancy Killian, I am sure that she and her family can rebut Al’s claims very easily. So can a few other people.

    Its time to clean up the s*** from whence the stench is coming from. How much more can the public take?????

  11. Al Koenig was busted for stealing computer equipment from the CPA,fudging his plates to avoid photo radar, misappropriating CPA and beer tent money.

    He didn’t return the computer equipment until a search warrant was drawn up for his residence.

    Take his babbling for what it’s worth!

    Time for the CPA to pick a spokesperson with,the very least, a shread of integrity.



    Bless these streets that I protect and help us all forget
    the drugs and violence we see each day
    and let our children be safe to play
    Bless the help that we can keep
    those who take the gangs off our street.
    Make my judgement feel so right
    to take their guns without a fight.
    Give me strength for every day
    to keep my life from in harms way.
    And bless the people we can trust,
    we need their help just as much.
    So let us all wear a smile,
    Because life is just a little while.


  13. “Remember now and always that the office of constable is held by you as a public trust,
    and that the uniform you wear and the commission you carry are symbols of public faith.
    If you dishonor, disgrace or disregard the faith placed in your office you become
    more dangerous than any criminal you will ever confront. When the public cannot trust
    individual police officers or the police institution to operate within the law, confidence
    in the justice system is undermined and the very foundations of our democratic society
    are threatened.”

  14. What has happened to the leading principle of public service?

    When I was a lad, eons ago and in a former life, I was proud to have the opportunity to take up the ‘office of Constable’. That day I swore an oath before a judge and promised to endeavour at all times to (1) preserve life, (2) protect property and (3) cause the Queen’s peace to be kept.

    My first sergeant, a giant of a man in many different ways, also reminded me that I was the servant of the public (by choice) and that I should always remember that fundamental fact. I did, and it never let me down.

    I am now retired, but am very proud to have many serving and former police officers in this community as personal and long standing friends, but folks, don’t you think that it is time to remind the new guys that they are public servants, not cowboys????

  15. I guess it in Carl DeSantis’s case it really helps that your brother in law is also a Deputy Chief, who time after time has personally involved himself in complaints against Desantis.

    If we all only had the protection this poor excuse for a human being and leader has had.


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