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News Report

Senior Officer's Ride Home ‘The Right Thing’

Two rookie officers arrested Insp. Allan Stickney for impaired driving. Supervisor Sgt. Tim Korchinski stepped in to unlock the handcuffs from his friend of 22 years and drove him home. Korchinski warned the rookies, Cst. Tara Cummine and Cst. Crystal Senger, not to make any notes of the incident. Korchinski, whose duty it was to book Stickney at the police station and administer a breath test, was charged with obstruction of justice. An important opportunity to gather evidence was lost.

Insp. Al Stickney
Insp. Allan Stickney Stickney staggered ½ block from Lydia's Bar to his parked van, sat behind the wheel and revved the engine, when rookies Cst. Cummine and Cst. Senger reached in to handcuff Stickney and arrest him for drunk driving.

SASKATOON  —   A Saskatoon police sergeant says concern for the safety of the public and other officers prompted his decision to remove the handcuffs from a higher-ranking officer and drive him home instead of booking him for impaired driving last summer. Sgt. Tim Korchinski testified Tuesday it never crossed his mind to try to keep Insp. Al Stickney out of trouble.

Taking Stickney to police headquarters for a breath test would have pulled the two officers who had just arrested him off the street at a very busy time, leaving just two junior constables to cover the entire east side of the city by themselves during the early morning of July 28, 2007, Korchinski told provincial court Judge Violet Meekma.

Police procedure also would have required that an officer with a higher rank than Stickney be present when he provided a breath sample – something he could not guarantee within the time frame necessary for the sample to be used in court, Korchinski said.

“As a street manager, I felt I had to look at the whole big picture with regard to this incident … I had to weigh out the situation and, in my own mind, do the right thing.“

Stickney was charged last year with having care and control of a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol, after a pair of constables walking a beat in the Broadway Avenue area watched two men stagger across the street outside a popular bar right after closing and get into a van parked on 11th Street.

The engine was running and Stickney was behind the wheel when they approached and took him out of the van and into custody, court heard. The two constables – both relatively inexperienced, with just over a year in uniform – testified they did not know they were dealing with a fellow officer until he identified himself.

Const. Tara Cummine told court Stickney asked, “Don't you know who I am?” while she was arresting him. “I said no and he said, ‘I'm Inspector Stickney.’”

Korchinski, a supervisor, was in the area and had told the constables to call him for assistance if needed. He and Stickney – co-workers for 22 years – greeted each other by first name when he arrived at the scene a few minutes later.

Korchinski spoke with Stickney briefly in the back of his cruiser, then let Stickney out, removed his handcuffs and directed him back into the rear of the cruiser for a ride home.

Cummine and her partner, Const. Crystal Senger, testified Korchinski initially told them not to make any notes of the incident, but later instructed them to make detailed notes of what had happened.

Korchinski told them he was using “officer discretion” to take the senior officer home, they testified.

Korchinski said he decided to report Stickney to the police force's internal professional standards division, which he did the following day.

He told the two constables to hold off making notes until he returned from taking Stickney home because they were both upset and he did not want stress to interfere with the task, Korchinski testified, adding he knew the incident would have consequences for Stickney and their notes would be important.

Korchinski said he wasn't trying to protect Stickney, who has been suspended by the force with pay pending the outcome of the trial.

Korchinski said he felt it was still possible the arresting officers had enough evidence to support a formal impaired driving charge, even without a breath sample – and he said he must have been right since the matter is now before the court.

Stickney wanted to ride home in the front seat of Korchinski's cruiser, but he wouldn't allow it, he noted. “I was angry, and I wanted him to go in the back seat, to feel as uncomfortable as possible.”

On the drive to Stickney's condo, Korchinski said he advised his superior officer to “take responsibility and apologize” to the two constables.

Stickney's breath smelled of alcohol and he kept saying he didn't see what the problem was because he'd said hello to the two officers on the street before getting into the van, Korchinski testified.

He concluded Stickney “wasn't grasping the seriousness of the situation” because he was impaired, he added.

Insp. Doug Wylie, who was with Stickney and another man earlier that night, told court they each had six pints of beer – equivalent to 10 bottles – and one shot of tequila between 10 p.m. and about 1 a.m. when he left the other two at Lydia's on Broadway.

Wylie said he's been friends with Stickney “since we were this high.”

When he left the bar, he realized he was in no shape to drive and decided to get a cab, Wylie told court, explaining he has a “two-drink rule” because of the high standard of accountability expected of someone in his position on the force.

He can't say whether Stickney was impaired, Wylie said. “We were all in an equal state of having a good time, that's for sure.”

Defence lawyer Jay Watson and Crown prosecutor Bill Burge are expected to file legal briefs in the case by Oct. 31. Meekma is scheduled to deliver a verdict Nov. 21.

The defence is arguing the case should be dismissed because the two constables did not have “reasonable and probable grounds” to arrest Stickney based on their observations of the way he walked from the front of Lydia's to his van, parked half a block east of Broadway on 11th Street.

Cummine, who spent several years working as a waitress and “shooter girl” in local bars before joining the force, testified she could tell immediately Stickney and his companion – a friend from out of town – were extremely drunk when she saw them outside the bar.

“They were together, but they were so intoxicated they could not walk together side by side,” she said.

The friend later refused to give his name or speak to any of the officers at the scene, court heard. Korchinski said he offered the man a choice between taking a nearby cab home or being arrested for public intoxication. He left in the cab.

The whole incident amounted to an “arbitrary detention” of Stickney, Watson argued, noting Stickney was never read his rights or warned anything he said could be used against him later, and no one asked if he had been drinking. No breath sample was ever taken.

Stickney was understandably confused because, from his perspective, everything was fine until an officer suddenly pulled him from his van and put handcuffs on him, Watson told court.

It shouldn't matter that as a police inspector, Stickney is well aware of the rights that apply to anyone in police custody – he is entitled to be treated the same as anyone else under the charter of rights, Watson argued.

Saskatchewan: Full Court Rulings

R. v. Stickney, 2008 SKPC 152
Saskatchewan Provincial Court / Judge V.H. Meekma / Conviction

R. v. Stickney, 2009 SKQB 282
Saskatchewan Queen's Bench Court / Judge M.D. Action / Appeal: Conviction Upheld