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‘Sweeping changes’ could arrive following N.S. police-cell death: public safety consultant
A public safety consultant says the findings of an investigation into the death of a Nova Scotia man while in a Halifax Regional Police cell could result in major changes.
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.
Paul McKenna, a public safety consultant who teaches courses on policing, says all officers must meet a certain standard of care when a person is detained.
“Custody means care, supervision, guardianship – it's not just put someone in a cell and lock the door, particularly in these circumstances,” says McKenna.
Rogers' mother Jeanette says she's seen surveillance video of his last hours. She says officers put a spit hood – which prevents people from spitting on police officers – on her son and that he was put in a cell with the covering over his head.
She says her son was intoxicated and left alone in the cell with the spit hood still on.
Halifax Regional Police say they can't discuss Corey Rogers’ death because it is being investigated by the Serious Incident Response Team. It could take months before the report is released.
But police do say the department is currently developing a policy focused on high-risk prisoners. They refer to it as a priority which includes outlining practices related to spit hoods.
Halifax Regional Police also say the protective piece of equipment comes with conditions that state not to use unless the prisoner is under control and restrained, the wearer is under constant visual supervision, and it’s not used on anyone vomiting or having difficulty breathing.
“You take certain precautions when someone is intoxicated and maybe passed out and one of them is that you make sure their airways are clear,” says McKenna.
McKenna says police should be hyper vigilant when using spit hoods and strengthen policies around the restraint device.
“A way for boards of police commissionaires in Nova Scotia to say maybe this is an area that we can roll up our sleeves and get our hands on an issue in a strategic way to help guide this so that it doesn't happen again,” says McKenna.
Jeannette Rogers believes it should be mandatory to have a nurse overseeing people in police cells.
“I hope that changes are made so that no other family has to go through this again because I wouldn't wish this on my worst enemy,” she says.
Corey Rogers’ mother is currently consulting a lawyer about potential legal action.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Kelland Sundahl.