The Independent Investigations Office has cleared three Vancouver police officers of any criminal wrongdoing in a case in October where a 51-year-old intoxicated man died after being in their custody. But the officers are still facing an investigation by an external police force — the New Westminster Police Service — to determine whether there was any misconduct on the part of the police, as it relates to the Police Act.
Rollie Woods, deputy police complaint commissioner, said a Police Act investigation typically follows a criminal probe. It’s now up to a New Westminster investigator to do his own investigation, Woods said. “There might not be a need for him to do anything else but he’ll make his own decision as to what needs to be done.”
In a report released Tuesday, Chief Civilian Director Richard Rosenthal of the investigations office concluded there was no evidence the officers committed an offence in relation to the death of Stanley Robert Morrison. “Both civilian and VPD witnesses provided consistent accounts of the events that took place prior to the death,” Rosenthal said in his report. “The autopsy report did not indicate the presence of injuries that would have been consistent with any recent use of force by police or any injuries that could be associated with a fall to the ground from the police van.”
The case dates back to Oct. 7 when Vancouver police received a 911 call at 6:46 p.m. regarding a man who was allegedly causing a disturbance in a park in the 900-block of West Seventh Avenue.
Two officers responded and initially planned to transport Morrison to the Vancouver Detox Centre. The plan was abandoned once officers learned Morrison was temporarily banned “as a consequence of his past aggressive behaviour toward centre staff,” Rosenthal said.
Instead, Morrison accepted a ride home in a police van. Neither handcuffs nor restraints were used. The three-kilometre trip took just under seven minutes to complete, the report said.
When the officer arrived at Morrison’s residence, he opened the van’s door and found Morrison to be “unconscious and in medical distress.” Paramedics were called and arrived within 12 minutes. They initiated resuscitation efforts and transported Morrison to Vancouver General Hospital. He didn’t regain consciousness and was pronounced dead shortly after his arrival at hospital. A toxicology report indicated Morrison’s blood alcohol content was .30 per cent. A pathologist concluded he died of “acute alcohol toxicity.”
“Although the deceased’s blood alcohol level was extremely high, such fact does not disprove the officers’ assessment that he was in no immediate danger,” the report said. “Factors such as age, gender, physical condition, amount of food consumed and a person’s history of alcohol use can influence how alcohol may affect a person’s behaviour and result in varying objective indicators of impairment.”