LETHBRIDGE — A panel has ruled that police officers who had a court order to take a dying woman’s children away from her acted professionally and with compassion at a highly emotional time.
Andrea Glover’s appeal to the Law Enforcement Review Board accused officers of being “negligent, insensitive, aggressive, rude and abrupt” when they removed her gravely ill sister’s children from their mother’s home in Lethbridge in August 2005.
Glover and her siblings believe Monica Pomahac-Lansing would have lived longer had officers not executed an order that gave the children’s father immediate custody. Pomahac-Lansing, who had been told she had about two weeks to live, died the day after the children were taken away.
The review board on Wednesday dismissed the family’s complaint against three officers with the Lethbridge Regional Police Service.
It also says that video tapes, taken by Glover and her brothers and shown at a hearing in May, showed “all three officers performing their duties under difficult circumstances in a professional manner.”
Lethbridge police Chief Tom McKenzie said the decision completely exonerates the three officers, two of whom have since left the service.
“These officers were handling a situation where they had been given a very powerful court order that they were requested to execute,” he said.
“When there is a very directed, powerful court order, we don’t have the right to step aside. When the courts make an order, we’re compelled to follow it. We don’t have the option to dispute that or appeal that or set it down.”
An initial complaint by the family that was filed with the police service in 2006 was investigated internally and dismissed by Eugene Wehlage, the acting chief at the time. Glover then appealed the decision to the review board.
She said she’s disappointed by the outcome, but not surprised.
“I’m disillusioned with the existing process of policing the police, but this is the only avenue that’s open to civilians who dare to challenge them,” she said.
She disagreed with the board’s finding that the officers acted with compassion and said her family interpreted their actions very differently.
She denied that she and her siblings have allowed their emotions around their sister’s death to colour their impression of the police.
The panel concluded that the officers “were caught in the cross-fire of a long and bitter family dispute which continued even after the death of Monica from leukemia.”
Glover has made it her mission to protect others in her sister’s situation.
She first took her fight to Lethbridge MP Rick Casson, who led a successful effort to have Canada’s Divorce Act amended to allow terminally ill parents court-assisted access to their children.
She has also been told that her sister’s case is being used by the Justice Department in its sensitivity training for police officers.
The family is considering whether to appeal the ruling to a higher court or whether to proceed with a civil lawsuit, she said.
— By Shannon Montgomery in Calgary