Blue Line

Vancouver Police Board accepts department’s report on Myles Gray inquest

June 15, 2023  By The Canadian Press

June 15, 2023, Vancouver, B.C. – The Vancouver Police Department is committed to adopting the recommendations from a coroner’s inquest into the beating death of Myles Gray, it says in a report submitted to its board, but advocates say key concerns remain unaddressed.

In a statement released by Pivot Legal Society, the policy director for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association says the police report “leads the reader to believe that everything is fine at the (department) – short of implementing body-worn cameras.”

Meghan McDermott says the department “insists that its approach to crisis de-escalation is fine and dandy,” though she says police are using the same practices they did at the time Gray died in August 2015 after a beating by several officers.

The initial 911 call on the day the 33-year-old died was about an agitated man who was behaving erratically and who had sprayed a woman with a garden hose.


Gray died after a beating by police that left him with injuries including ruptured testicles and fractures in his eye socket, nose, voice box and rib.

The jury at the coroner’s inquest made two recommendations for Vancouver police, with expediting the use of body-worn cameras for all patrol officers at the top of the list, followed by enhanced crisis de-escalation training for officers, especially in situations where someone is experiencing a mental-health disturbance.

The department’s report to the Vancouver Police Board, which accepted the report at a meeting on Thursday, says the force is committed to implementing the jury recommendations.

It says a pilot project is set to launch this fall, during which about 100 uniformed officers will wear body cameras with video and audio capabilities for six months.

After that, the report says the department will assess the results with the intention of implementing the cameras for all front line officers over the longer term.

Speaking to media on Thursday, Chief Const. Adam Palmer said the inquest recommendations “align with work that we’ve already been doing.”

The report also outlines crisis intervention and de-escalation and use-of-force training, as well as courses focused on mental health introduced in 2020.

It says the crisis intervention and de-escalation training course that’s been mandatory for front line officers and supervisors since January 2015 is the property of the B.C. Ministry of Public Safety and the department cannot alter the content.

Supt. Shelley Horne told the board Thursday that the department “continually builds” on its use-of-force training, including consultation with mental health professionals.

Deputy Chief Const. Steve Rai meanwhile said the department would provide the board with an update on the latest changes to training in the coming months.

Palmer said Vancouver police training goes “above and beyond” provincial standards and the department works with an emergency medicine specialist at Vancouver General Hospital, Dr. Erik Vu, to incorporate his advice into training.

Asked whether he’d expect officers to respond similarly or differently if they were to receive today the call that ended in Gray’s death, Palmer said he wouldn’t speculate or go into details, in part because a disciplinary investigation is still underway.

“What I am going to say is that our officers are faced with very dynamic situations every day when they go out on the street,” Palmer said.

“There will be occasions, sometimes, where somebody may, depending on the circumstances, it’s possible somebody may lose their life. We never want that to happen,” he added.

Premier David Eby, speaking at an unrelated event Thursday, said he was glad Vancouver police were taking on the body camera pilot project.

“I’m sure the solicitor general will be very interested in seeing the results of this pilot and whether there’s an opportunity for us to expand that if it provides good results for the residents of Vancouver,” he said.

Eby said body cameras would help provide evidence of crimes witnessed by officers, as well as accountability if police overstepped their authority.

The jury at the inquest held in April classified Gray’s death as a homicide.

The coroner presiding over the inquest, Larry Marzinzik, told the five jurors before they began deliberating that homicide meant death due to injury intentionally inflicted by another person, but it was a neutral term that doesn’t imply fault or blame.

Dr. Matthew Orde, the forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on Gray’s body, testified at the inquest that a “perfect storm” of factors led to his death, including his extreme physical exertion as officers struggled to restrain him.

Orde said Gray died of cardiopulmonary arrest complicated by police actions, pointing to “neck compression,” blunt force injuries, the use of pepper spray and holding Gray on his stomach while his arms were handcuffed behind his back.

People who are forcibly restrained on their stomach are at greater risk of death, especially when their body has increased physiological demands, he testified.

Orde had originally listed “excited delirium” among the possible contributing factors in Gray’s death. Many of the 14 Vancouver police officers who testified at the inquest also used the contentious term describing a state of agitation.

However, Orde revised that finding during his testimony at the inquest, saying published data and research suggest it’s “quite unlikely” that so-called excited delirium syndrome could independently result in someone’s death.

“Acute behavioural disturbance” is a better description of what Gray was experiencing on the day he died, Orde told the inquest.

A statement from the BC Coroners Service said it no longer recognizes “excited delirium” as a cause of death in its investigations, saying the decision “was made in response to the evidence-based literature changing over time.”

A years-long investigation by B.C.’s police watchdog, the Independent Investigations Office, found reasonable grounds to believe an offence may have been committed and submitted a report to the BC Prosecution Service for consideration of charges.

The service announced in late 2020 that it would not pursue charges against the officers involved in the struggle to arrest Gray, saying police were the only witnesses and the Crown couldn’t prove any offence had been committed.

The Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner is overseeing an investigation into several officers’ conduct and a disciplinary hearing is expected later this year.

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