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'Good constructive criticism'

Terrence McEachern
Northern News Services
Published Friday, April 1, 2011

SOMBA K'E/YELLOWKNIFE - The Yellowknife RCMP say they are looking forward to implementing jury recommendations from the Raymond Eagle coroner's inquest because they will enhance existing policies.

"You always need somebody from the outside to look at your policies and give you good constructive criticism and direction," said Cpl. Wesley Heron, media relations officer with the RCMP's G Division.

The recommendations include having RCMP monitor and document video observations on prisoners held in cells, as well as hanging posters around the detachment which detail medical symptoms.

Raymond Eagle was found highly intoxicated on the evening of Aug. 3, 2006, lying in the middle of a downtown street suffering from a head wound. He was taken to Stanton Territorial Hospital, treated and released into police custody by hospital staff.

The next day at around 1:30 p.m., he was found by detachment guards in one of the cells unresponsive, after vomiting earlier. He was taken back to the hospital, and then medevaced to Edmonton close to 18 hours after being first treated.

It was discovered he had bleeding in his brain and underwent surgery for a blood clot. Eagle died on Jan. 5, 2010 after slipping into a coma for three years and never regaining consciousness.

The five-day coroner's inquest concluded on March 18 in Yellowknife with 16 recommendations from the six-person jury, ten of which involve the RCMP. Heron praised the recommendations as "well thought out."

The RCMP announced their support for the recommendations in a March 25 press release. However, one recommendation that isn't mentioned in the release is the RCMP's involvement in a community consultative group to "explore the possibility" of setting up a drug, alcohol and substance rehabilitation centre and a "half-way house" in Yellowknife.

The recommendation is directed at the GNWT's Department of Health and Social Services, and Heron said the RCMP would be willing to contribute whatever knowledge they could to the issue. But the RCMP's mandate isn't to set up and operate facilities like a rehabilitation centre and a "half-way house," he said, so the RCMP wouldn't be taking the lead on the proposed implementation of this recommendation.

Heron said discussions regarding other recommendations, such as the sharing of medical information of a patient soon to be released into RCMP custody, require multi-agency efforts and, given the privacy issues with sharing confidential medical information, it wasn't known how or if these could be implemented.

Even so, Heron noted that during the 2006 incident, Eagle was medically cleared by Stanton Territorial Hospital to be placed in prisoner cells at the RCMP detachment, and that it is isn't reasonable to expect officers and guards to be "health care professionals."

Heron added two recommendations involving physical checks on incarcerated and highly intoxicated persons, as well as recording their observations in a log book, is nothing new. However, he did say that the recommendation to add a column requiring guards to record video observations from the cameras monitoring cells is new and a good idea that will enhance the current policy.

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