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Special constables in Halifax charged in man's police cell death

November 07, 2017 - 12:05 PM

HALIFAX - Two special constables in Halifax are facing charges following the death last year of a 41-year-old man arrested for public drunkeness and later found unresponsive in a police holding cell.

Corey Rogers was declared dead at 1:53 a.m. on June 16, 2016, eight minutes after he was found unconscious in a cell inside Halifax police headquarters.

The province's independent police watchdog agency issued a statement Tuesday saying the two special constables, Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner, have been charged with criminal negligence causing death.

The Serious Incident Response Team says the two were acting as booking officers that night.

Special constables in Nova Scotia are not police officers. They are civilians appointed to specialized duties, including the booking of prisoners.

On the night before he died, Rogers was arrested under the Liquor Control Act around 10:30 p.m. outside the IWK Health Centre, which is Atlantic Canada's largest children's hospital.

He was taken to police headquarters in downtown Halifax and placed in a cell around 11 p.m., according to a summary of the investigation by the Serious Incident Response Team.

Paramedics were called to the cells when Rogers was found unresponsive almost three hours later.

The summary says the special constables had a duty to evaluate Rogers' medical condition prior to being placed in the cell, and they were required to observe him "for the purpose of maintaining his personal safety and well being."

"Corey Rogers, like any person placed in police cells following an arrest, inherits this 'duty' regardless of his state of sobriety," the summary says.

During its investigation, the team interviewed six civilian witnesses and reviewed police notes, reports, radio transmissions and video footage from the cell block.

Under the Criminal Code of Canada, criminal negligence is defined as completing or omitting any duty in a way that shows "wanton or reckless disregard" for the lives or safety of other people.

The death was already the subject of civil litigation.

Halifax police released a statement Tuesday saying the force could not address the specifics of what they called a tragic incident, and extended their condolences to Rogers' family.

"Proper care of those in custody is a priority for us, and as such, we review and enhance our practices and are confident in our employees' ability to appropriately manage the care of people in custody," police said in the statement.

Halifax police confirmed they had opened their own investigation into Rogers' death, but that probe has been put on hold until the charges are dealt with in court.

The two special constables were to appear in Halifax provincial court Tuesday afternoon.

Note to readers: The is a corrected story. A previous version indicated Corey Rogers died earlier this year.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2017
The Canadian Press

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