Alberta’s police watchdog will review an investigation into an incident where Lethbridge officers handcuffed a woman in a stormtrooper costume outside a Star Wars-themed business on May 4.
The incident was originally deemed out of the scope of the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team, Lethbridge police had said, so Medicine Hat police were directed to investigate the matter.
After discussions between ASIRT, Lethbridge police and Medicine Hat police, the matter was deemed to meet the necessary criteria for ASIRT to review Medicine Hat’s investigation once complete.
ASIRT is an independent provincial agency that investigates allegations of police misconduct, or incidents involving police where serious injury or death occurred.
On May 4, Lethbridge police officers responded to two 911 calls reporting a person in a Star Wars stormtrooper costume was carrying a firearm on 13th Street North in the southern Alberta city.
Inside the costume was an employee of a nearby space-themed restaurant, the Coco Vanilla Galactic Cantina.
The 19-year-old was carrying a plastic toy gun for her assignment of waving at people and encouraging them to visit the establishment for themed specials, like Yoda Soda.
The business was holding a promotion for “May the fourth,” a day celebrated as a reference to Star Wars as a pun on the movie franchise’s expression “May the force be with you.”
Police said upon their arrival, the young woman dropped the toy weapon but didn’t initially comply with police direction to get down on the ground.
Officers responded with weapons drawn, forced the woman to the ground and removed her helmet, which the woman’s boss said caused a bloody nose, bruising and scratches. She was handcuffed but was later released and no charges were laid.
Video of the arrest circulated online and generated public outcry.
“ASIRT’s role in a review is to provide an objective, independent, critical examination and assessment of an investigation to confirm that it was properly conducted using best practices and ensure all appropriate investigative steps were taken,” Lethbridge police said.
“Once the review is complete, the file is returned to the home agency with any recommendations that ASIRT may have made. Those recommendations could relate to specific steps that could or should be pursued in the investigation or broader practice or policy recommendations.”
Lethbridge police said as the investigation has been handed to another agency it will not be commenting further.