The mother of a man was found unresponsive in a Halifax police cell in June of last year says she wants a review by Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice.
Corey Rogers was arrested for public intoxication 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, Jeanette Rogers, says Corey was wearing a spit hood at the time and has been told his cause of death was asphyxiation.
“It was from the time that he was brought into the back of the police station that things started to go wrong,” says Rogers.
A spit hood is one of the many tools police may use during an arrest.
“It is a physical barrier and it’s for officer’s health, we get spit on,” says Halifax Regional Police Sgt. Steve Gillett.
The hood comes in an individual clear plastic bag with instructions taped around the outside. The package states the person who's wearing it must be under constant visual supervision.
“You need to ensure there is no bleeding or other fluids coming from their mouth, look for respirations, remove any eyewear,” says Sgt. Gillett. “If there's a medical concern we would obviously remove the hood and call EHS.”
The hood is the same type of restraint device a Halifax man was allegedly wearing when he died in police custody last month. The man was arrested under the Liquor Control Act, and an investigation is underway to find out if the case was handled properly.
An independent police watchdog is investigating the Corey Rogers case, but his mother also wants a review by Nova Scotia’s Department of Justice.
“An inquiry will bring forth recommendations and hopefully laws, so that the police have to follow their own policies,” says Rogers.
In 2012, Nova Scotia released a review into the death of a woman in a Truro police lock up cell, with several recommendations made to improve prisoner safety. Since then, the province’s Serious Incident Response Team has investigated three more deaths and one serious injury. All were arrested under the Liquor Control Act and put in police holding cells.
Dalhousie law professor Archie Kaiser has consulted on deaths in custody several times. He says the province must protect the health and human rights of intoxicated prisoners.
“If that hasn't been the case on a comprehensive province wide basis, than the province has dropped the ball,” says Kaiser.
Halifax Regional Police won't discuss the death of Corey Rogers because it is currently under investigation.
Police do say that officers in the prisoner care facility receive training on the use of spit hoods.
The police service is also currently developing policy related to highly intoxicated prisoners.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.