Edmonton police plan internal review after ASIRT investigation into death in custody

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Edmonton police plan internal review after Alberta police oversight investigation into man’s in-custody death found community peace officers failed to follow vetting policy detainees.

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In March 2020, police arrested a 53-year-old man on a warrant and placed him in the holding cells at the Downtown Division headquarters. According to an investigation by the Alberta Serious Incident Response Team (ASIRT), CCTV footage showed the man and another inmate using drugs in the holding cell.

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About an hour after taking the medication, the man appeared to have spasms, moved lightly for two minutes, then did not move.

For more than five hours, the man did not move as video showed peace officers passing by until they finally entered the cell, more than 12 hours after he was first detained. Despite CPR and the use of naloxone, the man died. An autopsy later determined that his cause of death was fentanyl toxicity.

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ASIRT determined that the community peace officers on duty at the time did not follow the Edmonton Police Service (EPS) policy on detainee screening. However, ASIRT’s mandate does not extend to peace officers and « all other action concerning them is the responsibility of the EPS ».

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In a statement Thursday, EPS spokeswoman Cheryl Voordenhout said the service would conduct an internal review of the circumstances surrounding the man’s death. She said the peace officers who worked in the unit that day are still employed by EPS.

“EPS policies relating to the care and control of inmates are thorough. However, according to the ASIRT report, it appears that the usual policy and procedure was not followed in this case,” Voordenhout said. « This will also be part of the EPS follow-up survey. »

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Voordenhout noted that the Inmate Management Unit has since been moved to the new North West Campus Police Station and several capacity and technology upgrades have been made.

A body scanner is available to reduce contraband in the unit, and inmates can be kept alone in the cell, minimizing the risk of contraband sharing. In addition to the additional staff, each cell also has an individual station for physical and visual monitoring reports, compared to the old location which had a group location.

Additionally, if an inmate does not respond to an arousal check, a supervisor is now notified of a decision, Voordenhout said.

with files by Hamdi Issawi




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