Alberta’s chiefs of police have taken the first step towards having a uniform policy across the province on releasing the names of murder victims. Police lawyers representing all of the agencies within the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police will begin poring over the Freedom of Information Protection of Privacy Act to get to a single interpretation.
The plan was approved in a conference call by police chiefs Friday morning.
“Everybody agrees that we need to get together and talk about our practices and figure out if we can come to a consensus on a basic guideline or principle,” Chief Andy McGrogan said. “We’ve asked our legal and our FOIP folks to get together, and we’re going to ask the Justice Department if they would join us, and sit down in a room and come up with a framework that is consistent.”
“I think it’s a small interpretation issue,” said McGrogan, with the Medicine Hat Police Service, who is the association’s president. “We had four murders in 2016 and we released all the names. We had the permission of the families and in each particular case did our review and determined whether or not they could be released, when you consider the whole public interest piece and all the other things that we need to consider.”
“If you consider that a deceased person under FOIP legislation has privacy rights for 25 years after their death, so if you take that as the principle frame work and work your way back, there’s certain things that allow us to release the name and certain things that wouldn’t. So it depends on how they interpret all that.”
Edmonton has differed from other parts of the province since at least January and cites FOIP as a reason to not release the names of the deceased. That includes the most recent case of an 11-day-old infant whose mother, Michelle Rice, is charged with second-degree murder.
McGrogan is hoping a firm answer will be in place soon.
“The talk is weeks rather than months,” he said. “We should have some sort of recommendation or at least a report from them as to where they got or didn’t get in trying to build some consistency.” (bd)