An expert in police use of force said the actions of the three officers who arrested Corey Rogers were consistent with Halifax police policy, but noted the policy and their training didn’t include spit hoods.
Sgt. Kelly Keith flew in from Manitoba to testify at the Police Review Board hearing for Halifax Regional Police constables Ryan Morris, Justin Murphy and Donna Lee Paris, where he took the stand on Monday. Each of the three officers had already testified, telling the board how they picked Rogers up outside the IWK for public intoxication and took him to cells at HRP headquarters, where he died.
Keith has been a police officer 33 years, having worked in various roles in western Canada, and then training officers across the country and in the U.S. By the consent of lawyers acting on behalf of the officers, Rogers’ mother and the municipality, the board qualified him as an expert in use of force and police training.
He was present for their testimony, and Keith repeatedly watched the videos of the officers carrying Rogers into the building and then dragging him into a dry cell.
The officers never used excessive force during the portions of the interaction captured on video, Keith said, noting Rogers was resisting them the entire time.
Keith said Rogers presented “pre-assaultive cues,” like hitting his head and spitting in the back of Morris’ cruiser and uttering threats, but he credited the officers with preventing Rogers from escalating to assault.
Part of that prevention was the use of a spit hood.
To recap, when the officers got to the HRP building, Murphy went inside the booking area to get a spit hood, and then Paris put it over Rogers’ head. The constables never removed the spit hood, and testified that no officer ever removed them because that would defeat the purpose. Shortly after the officers placed him in a cell, Rogers vomited into the spit hood and asphyxiated.
Keith said he’s never trained officers on their use, but he doesn’t consider spit hoods to necessarily be a use of force.
This has been a point of some debate throughout the hearing because the hoods are listed in the cells policy as a use of force that must be documented by booking officers. Before Rogers’ death, no HRP officer had been trained how to use them, and the officers at this hearing said they still haven’t been trained on them. Policy implemented after Rogers death, in 2019, restricted use of spit hoods to the cells. As the Halifax Examiner reported last year, they are still being used.
But back in 2016, any officer could use the hoods at any time without any training.
“There’s policies in regards to starting your notebook with the date, but there’s no policy regarding spit hoods,” Keith said of that time.
“There’s no training in regards to spit hoods.”
Keith’s testimony was expected to continue on Tuesday.
On Monday morning, Morris finished his testimony under cross-examination by lawyers for the municipality and Rogers’ mother.
Ted Murphy, lawyer for HRM, asked Morris about comments he addressed in his testimony last week. As the Examiner reported Friday:
When he pulled up and stopped his vehicle, Morris said he saw Rogers had a half-full pint of Fireball, a cinnamon-flavoured whisky, in his hand. As he got out of the vehicle, Morris said Rogers started to drink the alcohol, and by the time he got to the front of his cruiser, on his way to the passenger side of the vehicle where Rogers was standing, the bottle was empty.
Morris estimated Rogers drank the half-pint — more than six ounces at 33% alcohol by volume — in two or three seconds.
Later on that evening, after carrying Rogers into police headquarters and then dragging him into a cell, Morris remarked to Murphy and Paris, as well as the two booking officers, special constables Cheryl Gardner and Dan Fraser, that he was “impressed” how quickly Rogers got the drink down.
“Unfortunately I chose an unprofessional manner in which I relayed that information, but I told the booking officers he had consumed a half-pint of Fireball whisky in my presence,” Morris said on Friday.
“I think you’ll agree with me that comments such as those, made in that unprofessional manner, that doesn’t reflect well on Halifax Regional Police?” Murphy asked on Monday.
“Correct,” Morris said.
“And that doesn’t meet the standards expected of sworn officers?”
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