FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 15, 2023
xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tsleil Waututh) / Vancouver, B.C. – Nearly 8 years after the death of Myles Gray during a brutal and violent encounter with multiple Vancouver Police Department (VPD) officers the Vancouver Police Board is set to receive a report based on Jury Recommendations.
Myles Gray was killed on August 13, 2015. For nearly a decade, his family and friends have waited for answers while facing callous delays, institutional stonewalling, and outright defiance by involved officers and senior Vancouver Police Union representatives.
This week, the family of Myles Gray learned that the Vancouver Police Board would be receiving a report from the VPD in response to the Coroners Inquest, held earlier in 2023. The Coroners Inquest classified Myles Gray’s death as homicide, listing the immediate cause of death as “cardio pulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual and restraint (including the application of OC spray, multiple blunt force injuries, neck compression, dorsal handcuffing, and forcible prone positioning); in an individual exhibiting features of acute behavioural disturbance.”
The jury at the Coroners Inquest made 2 recommendations to the VPD, regarding the use of body-worn cameras and crisis de-escalation and containment training.
The VPD insists that its approach to crisis de-escalation is fine and dandy, even though it is using the exact same practices that led to the homicide of Myles Gray!
“This report to VPD’s civilian oversight board is terrifying, in that it leads the reader to believe that everything is fine at the VPD - short of implementing body-worn cameras. The VPD insists that its approach to crisis de-escalation is fine and dandy, even though it is using the exact same practices that led to the homicide of Myles Gray! Let’s hope the civilian oversight board understands how scary it is for the public to see the VPD stand by its actions, and pushes the department to take concrete steps to destroy its culture of defiance and impunity.”
- Meghan McDermott, Policy Director at the BC Civil Liberties Association
Training and body cameras are rather common recommendations coming from numerous inquests into killings by police... we need to recognize the limits, even ineffectiveness, of these in stopping police killings.
"Across Canada, charges have been laid or forwarded to Crown prosecutors for consideration in only three to nine per cent of the cases undertaken by the respective provincial agencies, according to a 2020 report. For B.C.‘s IIO, of 127 investigations in 2018-19, it referred three cases for potential charges to the Crown. In 2021-2022 the IIO commenced 193 new investigations and referred only 12 investigations to Crown Counsel (BC Prosecution Service) for consideration of charges. Training and body cameras are rather common recommendations coming from numerous inquests into killings by police. At the same time, we need to recognize the limits, even ineffectiveness, of these in stopping police killings. Several of the officers involved in killing Myles Gray testified on the stand that they could not recall what, if any, training they received on de-escalation or mental distress calls. This tells us much about the usefulness of training as a would-be reform.”
- Dr. Jeff Shantz, Criminologist & Faculty Member at Kwantlen Polytechnic University
Government, police, and policymakers cannot shy away from the horrific and gruesome way that Myles Gray died.
Government, police, and policymakers cannot shy away from the horrific and gruesome way that Myles Gray died. The institutional response of the VPD and union leadership reflects an organizational culture where a Thin Blue Wall has fostered a sense of impunity with regards to oversight. Not only did numerous officers participate in the death of Myles Gray - they all remained on the force afterwards, including officers who broke with departmental policy and failed to document their actions or comply with an independent investigation. This disdain for civilian oversight reflects an organizational culture within the VPD and its union.
- Meenakshi Mannoe, Criminalization & Policing Campaigner, Pivot Legal Society
The conduct of VPD - at both Joffre Avenue in 2015 and in the years that followed - has received international attention. The unbelievable violence is reflected in the extensive injuries that Myles Gray suffered prior to his death. The subsequent actions of police officers - including failure to comply with departmental policy (numerous officers testified that they were told not to take notes, and they complied with that advice), as well as failure of at least one witness officer, Cst. Hardeep Sahota, to comply with the IIO investigation. These actions should call into question the organizational culture of the VPD - including the leadership of Chief Adam Palmer, who has been serving as chief constable since May 2015.
In January 2019, the Chief Civilian Director of the Independent Investigations Office of BC (“IIO”) determined that there were reasonable grounds to believe the officers may have committed criminal offences and filed a report with BC Prosecution Services for their consideration of charges, which included manslaughter, aggravated assault, and assault causing bodily harm. At the time the IIO noted that lack of cooperation by a witness officer was a factor in delays to their investigation.
In December 2020, the BC Prosecution Service announced that no charges were approved in the 2015 killing of Myles Gray, issuing a Clear Statement. This statement detailed numerous injuries, and, at the time, the forensic pathologist who completed the post-mortem examination report disclosed numerous injuries. The Clear Statement issued by BC Prosecution Service also references the forensic pathologist’s determination that additional factors may have been contributory, including the use of mitragynine (commonly known as Kraton) and “excited delirium.”
During the 2023 Coroners Inquest, a forensic toxicologist gave testimony that the initial drug screening report which determined the presence of mitragynine did not meet the threshold for detection. Further, Ian Donaldson K.C., acting as counsel for the family as Myles Gray, brought attention to the contentious diagnosis of excited delirium, a debunked diagnosis that has been dismissed by the National Association of Medical Examiners, the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association.
On Thursday June 15, the VPD will provide their report on the jury recommendations. This narrowly-conceived report fails to address the decisions of VPD officers to not take notes, based on recommendations from senior police union officials, nor does it address VPD witness officers’ failure to comply with the IIO investigation.
The Vancouver Police Board, as both the employer and governing body of the VPD, is also responsible for oversight responsibilities. They must address the numerous concerns that arose from testimony during the Coroners Inquest that extend well beyond the 2 jury recommendations.
Vancouver Police Board, The family of Myles Gray and their supporters continue to await an update from the IIO, as the investigating agency, in light of the updated information presented at the 2023 Coroners Inquest.
Taz Khandwani, Pivot Legal Society
Meghan McDermott, BC Civil Liberties Association
Jeff Shantz, Criminologist
BC Prosecution Service Media Statement - December 16, 2020
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