The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), the unit that investigates case of police harm to civilians in the province, is examining the death of an as yet unnamed 32-year-old man in RCMP custody on Saturday, May 13, 2017. The man was in custody at the Fort McMurray RCMP detachment for supposedly drug-related offenses. Unverified police claims state that the man asked to make a phone call at about 2:45 AM Saturday morning. Four minutes after he was moved to a secure room to make the call, RCMP claim they entered the room to find the man on the floor in some medical distress. He was supposedly treated by paramedics at the scene but died two hours later in hospital. None of the police claims have been independently confirmed.
Category Archives: Death in Custody
A 24-year-old man died in police custody in Puvirnituq, in northern Quebec, sometime in the evening of Friday, April 28. The man was arrested and detained by police, for as yet undisclosed reasons, earlier Friday morning. Police report that a guard noticed between 5:30 and 6 PM that the man was not breathing. He was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead. The Bureau des enquêtes indépendantes (BEI, Bureau of Independent Investigations) has assigned seven investigators to examine the case. The BEI is not actually independent and provincial police (SQ, Sûreté du Québec) officers will also be involved in the investigation.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) the provincial body that investigates incidents of police harm to civilians in the province, is quickly developing a reputation for letting cops off on flimsy grounds when they are involved in civilian deaths.
On Friday, April 21, 2017 ASIRT announced that no officers from the Tsuut’ina Nation Police Service (TNPS) would be charged after a 25-year-old man in police custody apparently killed himself. This despite the fact that the ASIRT investigation found that the force did not follow the “specific protocols [which] were in place” for times when the man, who was known by police, was taken into police custody. According to the ASIRT ruling said “procedural errors” were made and the man was left unsupervised, which protocol said he should not have been “resulting in a sufficient amount of time to commit suicide” (ASIRT).
The man had been arrested on February 17, 2015, supposedly for intoxication and a complaint about his presence at a residence. So once again police were called to address a health care issue and the result is a civilian death.
ASIRT, which has an apparent habit of offering bogus excuses for officers and forces involved in civilian deaths, such as the dubious “excited delirium” claim, this time went one better. Their report attributed the man’s death to the vague and rather unscientific explanation of a “perfect storm” resulting in the man’s death. Surely this is clearly an ideological or copaganda mystification that excuses the officers involved for their own active choices and actions, the committing of procedural errors, and the role those played in contributing to the death. Yet the “perfect storm” means even a consideration of something like negligence is nullified. To the benefit of the police officers responsible.
ASIRT said in a statement that: “This case, however, should remind officers of the duty of care they undertake when exercising custody or control of another person” (ASIRT). Yet there is no mechanism to go beyond the occasional reminder when the investigative body keeps providing excuses to get cops off when civilians die in their custody.
Similarly, in a statement, Chief Keith Blake of the TNPS said: “The Tsuut’ina Police remain absolutely committed to the highest levels of care for those persons in our care and custody” (Statement). Yet this case shows the lack of commitment to even basic standards of their own protocol. So one might well ask what it is they remain committed too.
The finding of “excited delirium,” which makes its primary appearance in medical contexts usually only ever as justification for police killings of civilians, is an ideological tool used to excuse lethal police force. It has been used by police forces as a way to simultaneously blame victims for their own killings and give killer cops an answer where no real answer exists.
This dubious piece of copaganda has been offered up once again in Alberta to excuse Edmonton Police Service officers who killed a 25-year-old man on April 29, 2015. This despite well established debunking of the notion of excited delirium. The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) offered the excited delirium defense in findings released on April 18, 2017, two years after the young victim died after being subjected to force by multiple officers while in police custody.
Sadly, the victim was targeted by police for the trivial act of supposedly trespassing in the City Centre Mall after nervous security staff called them. The security staff had tweaked to him because they suspected him of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. So an effort at moral regulation by private security ultimately resulted in a young man having his life taken by police. The ASIRT report added to the moral regulatory approach by suggesting the man had been uncooperative with police, saying he refused to follow directions.
For many police officers refusing to follow directions is an invitation to a beating or worse an extrajudicial execution. In this case ASIRT reports that at least four officers used force on the man supposedly to get him into restraints. After being violently removed from the mall and taken into Downtown Division the man was placed on the floor in the detention area. At this point Edmonton Police Services officers noticed he was unconscious, and in medical distress. Paramedics took the man to hospital but he could not be stabilized and was declared dead there.
Notably, the ASIRT reports makes clear that the man was acting in a way that suggested both to private security and police that his issue was health related not criminal. According to the ASIRT release the man “exhibited bizarre behaviour” (ASIRT). The report continues: “He was observed twisting and attempting to pull away. He was observed to be breathing heavily, mumbling and yelling, mostly incoherently” (ASIRT). Yet the intervention was, once again, repressive violence and thuggish force rather than health care.
This is a case in which private security and police intervene against someone who is, at most, dealing with substance abuse issues. Police should not be intervening in this situation. Yet they do so with force. And when force becomes lethal they turn to “excited delirium” in an attempt to justify the unjustifiable. And it routinely gets them off. And mainstream media repeat the claim uncritically.
The Independent Investigations Office (IIO), the provincial body that examines cases of police harm to civilians in British Columbia, is investigating the death of an as yet unnamed 40-year-old man who died while in Kelowna RCMP custody. RCMP claim officers responded to a single-vehicle crashing into a tree on McCulloch Road at around 5:15 PM on Friday, March 31, 2017. RCMP report taking the driver to the detachment in Kelowna as part of a criminal investigation, the nature of which has not been revealed publicly.
Police claim that the man was taken to hospital after complaining of pain. Following examination there he was, according to police, taken back to the detachment and booked into a cell at 11:25 PM. According to RCMP the prisoner was found unresponsive the next day at approximately 2:11 PM and was pronounced dead around 2:40 PM.
None of the police claims have been independently confirmed. The details of the prisoner’s death in RCMP custody, as presented by police, have not been independently verified.
The Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT) is investigating a strange set of circumstances that ended in the death of a 20-year-old man in RCMP custody near Goodfare, Alberta (near Grande Prairie) on February 11, 2017. A young man supposedly breaks into a home. Was the owner home? Police enter the home after receiving permission from the owner. They reportedly find the young man who supposedly broke in resting on a couch. He supposedly picks up a nearby gun before police interact with him. Police claim they then simply left the home. Supposed attempts to contact the man again are said to be unanswered. When police re-enter the house they claim they find the man’s dead body.
Because the man died while the house was under control of police officers, it is registered as an in-custody death. It has not been independently confirmed that police fired no shots from any gun (police firearms or other).
The Independent Investigations Unit (IIU), the oversight body that examines police killings of civilians in Manitoba, is investigating after police killed a man they had taken into custody in the evening of February 12, 2017. Winnipeg police officers attended a home in Garden City after supposedly receiving reports of a disturbance there in the late evening. One man in the house said he wanted another man removed from the residence and police took the other man into custody to remove him. According to police some type of struggle ensured and the prisoner was injured fatally. Winnipeg Fire and Paramedic Services was contacted and the victim was taken to Seven Oaks Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Independently confirmed details of the killing have not been released publicly. Neither has the name of the victim.