A Nova Scotia family says their loved one’s life has been drastically altered after being taken into the care and custody of officers in Halifax.

Peter Lafitte suffered a permanent brain injury after being taken into the drunk tank.

“We were told he had a run in with police and was picked up for public intoxication and something happened to him in the jail cell,” says Charlene Lafitte-Bourgeois, Lafitte’s sister.

The 47-year-old was in hospital suffering from a significant brain injury. His sister says when she arrived a police officer was standing guard outside the room.

“He was on life support and not expected to live,” she says. “We were quite shocked that we had to walk by an armed police officer for three days to get to my brother's room.”

Nova Scotia's independent police watchdog launched an investigation in August 2016.  Charlene Lafitte-Bourgeios spoke to her brother before he was arrested. She doesn't believe he was drunk, but suffering from a mental health crisis.

“He should have been taken to the hospital,” she says.

Instead, he was taken to Halifax Regional Police cells. She has seen video that shows her brother tying his shirt around the bars.

“The next thing you see is the top of Pete's head and he's tying the other arm around his neck and then he slumps forward and stays that way for almost five minutes,” says Lafitte-Bourgeios.

According to the report by Nova Scotia's Serious Incident Response Team (SIRT), it took another nine minutes for officers to discover him during a routine check. SIRT indicates that the surveillance video of the cell wasn't working properly.

October of 2015, 10 months before this incident, Peter was once again arrested and put in the drunk tank and apparently he tried to do the same thing 10 months before, and they never flagged it,” Lafitte-Bourgeios says.

At the time of Lafitte's arrest, SIRT was investigating the death of Corey Rogers who had died in Halifax police cells nine weeks earlier. Two booking officers have been charged in that case.

Since 2012, SIRT has investigated four cases resulting in serious injury or death at Halifax Regional Police cells.

Lafitte’s SIRT report states the officers on duty were not criminally responsible and provided the reasonable care required.   

"Overall, the actions of (the two officers) fell well within the expected behaviour of any reasonable guard in these circumstances,” the report reads. “They carried out their expected administrative duties and conducted the required cell check on time, and immediately did what they could to provide emergency aid."

Halifax Regional Police says it is reviewing its policy on high-risk prisoners, but can't provide further comment due to court proceedings and civil litigation with another case.

Peter Lafitte suffers from a permanent brain injury and must live in a care home. His sister says she's gone from being furious to mostly sad.

“We lost Peter that night,” she says. “Our Peter is forever gone.”

“If our story, Peter's story, can help one other family, one other person never go through what we’ve gone through, then Peter would be happy for that.”

Peter Lafitte's family wants more to be done to ensure the safety of those in custody, especially for vulnerable people.

With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.