Integrity Testing

A constable “was assigned to maintain the perimeter security at a crime scene. He entered the crime scene, leaving its perimeter insecure, and took $300 cash. The next day, he divulged to his supervisors that he had taken the $300. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) opened an investigation…”. As part of the investigation of his conduct, the oversight body:

conducted two “integrity tests” as part of its investigation. The first integrity test occurred on May 10, 2017. The respondent was approached by an undercover police officer who handed him a bag and claimed to have found it. The respondent went through the bag and took $25 in cash and two $50 prepaid gift cards. He did not document any part of the event.

The second integrity test took place on August 2, 2017. The respondent was asked to assist in the search of a reported stolen vehicle. He took $88 and two packages of cigarettes from the vehicle. He was arrested after his shift concluded.

He was found guilty criminally of breach of trust. The resulting discipline hearing resulted in an order of dismissal. However, the Review Board lowered the sanction to a two-year reduction in rank. The regulator sought leave to appeal. In a remarkable decision, the Court went at length about the unreasonableness of the Review Board’s decision but denied leave to appeal because it did not raise a legal question of general importance: Edmonton (Police Service) v Ahlstrom, 2023 ABCA 248 (CanLII).

A broader issue, however, is the use of “integrity testing” or undercover investigators by regulators, which is sometimes argued to be entrapment. The law is clear that this is a legitimate investigative technique where it is part of a bona fide investigation, meaning there is a reasonable suspicion to support the investigation and there is a genuine purpose in investigating the conduct. Regulators frequently use the technique to investigate concerns about the illegal practice of a profession.

However, there are considerable constraints on the use of “integrity testing”. The process can only offer an opportunity to engage in the suspected conduct; it cannot involve any pressure or inappropriate inducements.

In addition, care must be taken as to who is monitored. Virtue testing one’s adjudicator in an upcoming hearing is inappropriate.

“Integrity testing”, while a valid investigative tool, should be employed carefully.

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