CALGARY - An inquiry into the death of a Calgary man during an encounter with police recommends there be a national database on excited delirium.
An inquiry report released Tuesday concludes Gordon Bowe died in November 2008 of excited delirium brought on by cocaine in his body.
Bowe was being restrained by four city police officers who had been called to investigate a possible break and enter.
The report described Bowe as jumping and diving off walls when police found him. He fought against officers for several minutes during the arrest then, according to police, was "very still and did not look like he was doing well."
The 30-year-old had also been Tasered, although the stun gun did not appear to work. Provincial court Judge Heather Lamoureux recommends the national Association of Chiefs of Police create a database to record and share details about deaths due to excited delirium.
Also known as autonomic hyperarousal, the condition is characterized by increased strength, paranoia and suddenly violent behaviour. It is further marked by profuse sweating and an elevated heart rate.
“For the same rationale as a provincial system is required, similar reporting on a national scale would provide an enormous amount of data upon which the Canadian police chiefs could conduct research,’’ wrote Lamoureux.
The judge said there should be consistent and enforced reporting on police use of force in such cases. She also said police agencies need to annually train officers about excited delirium.
Lamoureux noted that Calgary police are already training officers about the condition, but it’s not being done throughout the province.
Calgary police chief Rick Hanson said his force is also compiling its own data on excited delirium cases and passing it on to researchers.
As a regional vice-president with the national chiefs’ organization, he said he plans to table the judge’s report and suggest all forces follow suit.
"It makes too much sense to standardize our use-of-force reports across the country, if it means that we’re going to be compiling useable data for medical research," Hanson said.
"Often times police agencies gather data, but it’s not in a way that’s consistent. So as a result, because it’s not comparable, it’s not useable."
He said officers deal with excited delirium cases on a daily basis.
Dr. Christine Hall, an expert on excited delirium from Victoria, is attempting to document all excited delirium cases across the country that involve police restraint.
Hall testified last year at the inquiry that there is insufficient data to determine whether all cases of excited delirium lead to death. But she said the risk of death increases with physiologic stress, such as a physical encounter with officers.
She suggested police need to better recognize the symptoms of the condition and try to reduce the stress of people they are placing under arrest.
"It was Dr. Hall’s observation that more time must be taken to teach police that individuals who ‘give up’ suddenly during a physical interaction with police may in fact be in need of urgent emergency care," said the judge’s report.
Two years ago, a judge examining the death of a man Tasered by Halifax-area jail guards ruled out the cause of death as excited delirium. The judge in that case, Anne Derrick, ruled Howard Hyde died because jail guards applied restraint techniques that interfered with his breathing. Hyde was a longtime paranoid schizophrenic.
Derrick noted there is considerable controversy within the medical community as to whether excited delirium is a legitimate condition.
The issue came under scrutiny during the public inquiry into the death of Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski, who died in 2007 after he was Tasered by a Mountie at Vancouver International Airport.
A subsequent independent report commissioned by the RCMP also criticized the use of the term excited delirium. It said the condition is sometimes used as an excuse to justify firing stun guns.
In 2009, the RCMP restricted the use of stun guns to cases involving threats to officers or public safety, because officers had been instructed to use the weapons to subdue suspects thought to be in a state of excited delirium.
That term no longer appears in RCMP operational manuals, because the force believes officers can’t be expected to diagnose it.