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Edmonton's police chief was fired last night, one day after he went on indefinite medical leave in the wake of a public uproar over a drunk-driving stakeout against a newspaper columnist and the reform-minded head of the police commission.

"Chief [Fred]Rayner's contract has been terminated by the police commission, and a new chief has been appointed subject to ratification by city council," said Martin Ignasiak, chairman of the Edmonton Police Commission.

The identity of the new chief will not be revealed until after that ratification, he said, refusing further comment.

Edmonton has been gripped for days by the story of how police targeted Mr. Ignasiak and Edmonton Sun columnist Kerry Diotte in the stakeout. Officials have been trying to figure out how to properly investigate exactly what happened and how to determine whether the operation was an isolated event.

"The commission is extremely concerned about what had happened, perhaps more concerned as to whether or not there is anything systemic in the system to allow this incident to have taken place," said John Acheson of the police commission.

Chief Rayner told the commission Monday he was going on an immediate and indefinite sick leave. Three days earlier, he told a news conference that two officers face disciplinary hearings related to their actions around the stakeout, although those directly involved that night had done nothing wrong.

In radio transcripts, officers are heard trying to tailor the stakeout to avoid having to later admit they had officers acting as spotters in the bar. They joke about the anonymous tip that launched their actions.

Mr. Acheson said it's important to deal with the matter quickly.

"The cost of an inquiry is phenomenal and we wonder if an inquiry will give us the answers we need," he said. "We want to see if there are other ways to address what we think are the issues."

Enough information could surface in the disciplinary hearings to restore confidence, Mr. Acheson said. Mr. Diotte also favoured a quick resolution.

"We desperately need answers quickly because there is a dark cloud over the entire force right now, unfortunately."