The following is the public statement that we posted on the Halifax Regional Police Facebook page on December 15 with regard to our preliminary review of the detainment of a woman on December 10, 2016:
On December 12, we asked a senior officer to review this case, which included reading the file and viewing video from our Prisoner Care Facility. We have reached out to the woman with our findings and an offer for her to review the video. Our preliminary review does not preclude Ms. Martell’s option to file a formal complaint.
We’re now able to share the following based on our review:
At 2:42 a.m. on December 10, a concerned citizen called police about a woman on Mic Mac Blvd. who was screaming a man’s name. At 2:53 a.m. an officer responded to the 300 block of Mic Mac Blvd. and found a woman lying on the ground, crying and yelling. The woman’s eyes were glassy, her breath smelled of liquor, her speech was slurred and, upon standing, she was unable to walk on her own. The officer offered to drive her home but, when attempting to do so, the woman began crying and yelling from the back seat of the patrol car. At that point, the officer didn’t feel he could release her safely.
He placed her under arrest for being intoxicated in a public place under the Liquor Control Act and transported her to the Prisoner Care Facility at HRP Headquarters where she was held with the expectation that she would be released when sober. For clarification, the Liquor Control Act is provincial legislation and public intoxication isn’t a criminal offence. A breathalyzer test is administered under the Criminal Code to determine a person’s blood alcohol level when they are suspected of driving while impaired. It isn’t administered under the Liquor Control Act.
At 3:27 a.m., the woman was escorted into our booking area. The woman was not provided with a phone call, which happens when a person is intoxicated and agitated. In this process, the woman did not indicate she had a mental health issue, however, a medical questionnaire form should have been completed and wasn’t. We’ll be looking into this further.
At 3:34 a.m., after being booked in, the woman was placed in a single cell. For the next few hours, the woman was agitated on occasion, was clearly unhappy to be in our custody, and had removed her jacket and nylons, but did not require increased attention or care. A booking officer attended the detention area at least every 15 minutes and noted the physical and medical condition of the woman.
Beginning at 7:21 a.m., the woman’s behaviour changed and at 7:28 a.m., the officers took additional measures to protect the woman’s safety, which included taking away her jacket and nylons, transferring her to a dry cell and, at 7:40 a.m., placing her in the restraint chair.
At 7:52 a.m. officers called EHS because the woman was in a highly agitated state that, in the estimation of officers, required medical attention. At 8:04 a.m. EHS attended and at 8:09 a.m. officers loosened the restraints on the chair. During the time the woman was in the restraint chair, officers covered the woman below the waist with a blanket several times and each time the blanket slipped off as the woman was banging her knees together. As a result, there were brief increments of about one to three minutes each when the woman’s lower body was exposed.
At 9:08 a.m. the woman was released into the care of EHS and transported to hospital.
During the time that the woman was in our Prisoner Care Facility, she was primarily attended to by female staff, provided with water, a blanket, tissue on one occasion, and medical attention. Also, an officer called the woman’s family member.
The events of the early morning hours on Saturday were undoubtedly difficult for the woman, but she was legally arrested and detained and officers acted accordingly in consideration of their primary goal, which is to maintain the safety of the individual, staff and others in the facility – at no time did the officers use excessive force.
As a closing note, many people have asked about the mental health training officers receive. So far this year, we attended 3,420 calls where mental health factored into the incident. Given the considerations required when interacting with people experiencing a mental health issue and the frequency of that interaction, in 2015, all police and booking officers received training provided by the Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team, which is a shared service of HRP, the Nova Scotia Health Authority and the IWK Health Centre. As well, many officers receive mental health training as part of their policing education before they’re hired. We’re confident that officers are equipped to serve people appropriately, balancing mental health and policing can sometimes be very complex and with this in mind, we encourage officers to participate in supplemental mental health training, including critical incident training, crisis intervention, and suicide and intervention training.