POLITICS

Truro, N.S., police chief says he accepts findings of review into woman's arrest

05/25/2012 11:09 EDT | Updated 07/25/2012 05:12 EDT
TRURO, N.S. - The police chief in Truro, N.S., says he will work with the aboriginal community to implement recommendations from a report that concludes his officers failed to monitor an intoxicated woman who suffered a stroke in a jail cell and later died.

Chief Dave MacNeil said the force accepts the findings of the independent review into the arrest of Victoria Rose Paul of Indian Brook in August 2009.

"We welcome the report," he said Friday in an interview.

"It's a very comprehensive document. It will require some digestion by our management and our police board in the coming days."

Provincial Justice Minister Ross Landry ordered an investigation under the Police Act last August.

The ensuing report, released Thursday, found police did not properly monitor Paul's health while she was in custody. It also said the 44-year-old woman was incoherent and left lying on the cement floor of the lockup for four hours in her own urine.

Paul was arrested Aug. 28, 2009, outside a Truro bar for public drunkenness and was taken the following day to a Halifax hospital, where she died on Sept. 5, 2009.

The report recommends improving policies aimed at assessing the condition of intoxicated people when they're brought to jail.

MacNeil said his department will reach out to First Nations and the Justice Department as the force acts on the recommendations.

"It's very unfortunate and regrettable that it happened in this case and it shouldn't have happened. And we're going to take steps to ensure it doesn't happen in the future."

Consulting with the aboriginal community is an "important and long overdue" measure, said Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association.

There are two First Nation communities in the Truro area.

"It may be a painful process at first," said Maloney. "But if they're willing to do the work, then it should have lots of positive benefits down the road."

The review was led by Nadine Cooper Mont, the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner, who said Paul wasn't medically assessed or taken to hospital until 10 hours after she was incarcerated.

The province's medical examiner determined the stroke likely occurred while Paul was in custody and was so severe that she wouldn't have survived even if she'd been immediately treated.

MacNeil said steps will also be taken to address the training and performance issues of Sgt. Lee Henderson, who the report said neglected his duties as the on-duty officer overseeing the lockup.

Henderson was unavailable for an interview, said MacNeil.

In the report, Cooper Mont said Halifax police reviewed Henderson's conduct but their interview with the officer was not thorough enough to reasonably conclude any potential wrongdoing on his part.

She said by the time the Halifax police review was finished, the six-month statutory requirement to file a complaint under the province's Police Act had expired.

As a result, MacNeil said no disciplinary action would be taken.

Members of Paul's family have said the case shows that the statute of limitation provision in the Police Act should be repealed.

Landry said it's something worth considering.

"I think they raise a good point, whether that system is adequate to meet the needs or expectations of the public," he said Friday.

"When you look at the six-month rule, if that's a barrier to accountability, then any part of the system that doesn't have full accountability we need to evaluate and assess."