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Documents reveal spit hood regulation changes following N.S. police-cell death
CTV News has learned Halifax Regional Police changed its regulations on spit hoods following the death of Corey Rogers, who was found unresponsive in a police cell in June 2016.
Documents obtained from Halifax Regional Police through the Freedom of Information Act state that since Roger's death, the force issued an order to all ranks regarding the use of spit hoods.
According to the department order issued by Deputy Chief Robin McNeil on July 14, 2017, “spit hoods shall only be stored and deployed in the prisoner care facility and shall not be used in police vehicles or in the field.”
The memo also states, “only those formally trained on the use of a spit hood are authorized to apply them to a prisoner” and they must “use increased vigilance when using a spit hood to ensure the safety of the prisoner.”
Corey Rogers was arrested for public intoxication at the IWK Health Centre the night of June 15, 2016. The 41-year-old man was found unresponsive in a police cell three-and-a-half hours later. Attempts to revive him were unsuccessful.
His mother, Jeannette Rafuse-Rogers, says Corey was wearing a spit hood at the time and has been told his cause of death was asphyxiation. She also says an arresting officer put the spit hood on her son in the vehicle parked at the police station.
“He should have been in hospital, not in a jail cell," says Rafuse-Rogers.
Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT) just completed a 17-month investigation and charged special constables Cheryl Gardner and Dan Fraser with criminal negligence causing death.
SIRT alleges the two booking officers accepted Rogers into custody without medical assessment, failed to adequately check on him, and left him unsupervised with a restraint device over his head. The allegations have not been proven in court.
Dalhousie law professor Archie Kaiser wants to see a province-wide policy on spit hoods.
“I think it would assure the public that detainees are going to be safe from asphyxiation due to substance use anywhere in the province and not just in Halifax,” Kaiser says.
Halifax Regional Police says it's working on a high-risk prisoner policy, but won't answer any questions citing court proceedings and legal action against the service.
Police policy consultant Paul McKenna calls SIRT’s two-and-a-half page report into the death of Corey Rogers slim. He believes in order to ensure public safety, it's critical to know more immediately.
“I think there is a big window of opportunity that has blinds on it right now and I think we should think about lifting those blinds and shedding some light on those things,” says McKenna.
The SIRT report states the agency doesn't want to compromise a fair trial and may release more details after the court case.
Since 2012, Nova Scotia’s independent police watchdog has conducted four investigations into the deaths and serious injuries of people in Halifax Regional Police cells. Corey Rogers' death is the only one to result in charges.
His mother doesn't want another family to live her nightmare.
“This will be my son's legacy,” she says. “Things need to change within the system or some other family is going to end up standing where I am.”
Halifax Regional Police did provide CTV News with stats that show from 2015 to now approximately 1,900 people are arrested by their officers every year under the Liqiour Control Act, so changes to policies have the potential to affect a large number of people being taken into custody.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.