A coroner’s inquest into the death of Geoffrey Morris wrapped up in Regina on Wednesday.
The jury concluded that Morris died by suicide despite being shot in the head by a police in 2019.
Regina Police Chief Evan Bray said the inquest made for a very difficult week. “This was a tough situation, I sat beside the family this week, and so I felt what they were going through. No family wants to go through that, no police service wants to cause a family to go through that, so I felt bad. ”
Bray applauded the efforts of the members of the Regina Police Service this week. ” I heard everyone of those members testify, confidently and professionally on a situation that’s probably changed their lives, forever, some of them more than others. I appreciate that, I appreciate the fact, everyday our members are in the community doing things to enhance community safety and do everything they can to protect life and property in our community. I know on this day, our officers were involved in taking a life but in doing so, they saved a life. This was a hostage situation, they all believed that victim, that hostage life was in jeopardy and they all believed that despite all of their efforts, to try and resolved that situation peacefully, the way that situation was the only option they had that day to save a life.”
Bray also acknowledged the testimony of Cpl. Sterling “You could tell that was very heart felt, everyone in that room could feel, he not only said those words but turned and faced the family and had that conservation with them. It’s one of those things where there’s always going to be that hurt and pain that is there for the family. Part of an inquest is better understanding the truth of what happened and finding positive ways that we can commit to hopefully preventing something like that or minimizing the chances of something like that happening again, and I hope that also helps the family with a little bit of closure.”
There were recommendations from the inquest including having a mandatory psychologist on scene with a crisis negotiation team and having a list of on-call psychologists. Other recommendations include annual training for mental health crisis intervention, descalation strategies, addiction and psychosis strategies. Bray noted that some of these procedures like having a mandatory psychologist were already in place.
Another recommendation provided by the inquest jury is to have crisis teams to wear body cameras, and have audio recording devices on a lanyard or in a holster and to make a formal policy to always have a full negotiation team. The inquest jury also called for all non-commissioned officers to wear body cameras when called on to the scene as a supervisor.
Bray noted that discussions have already begun with the Police Board of Commissioners in regards to s body camera program and added that those discussions will continue with them. “We actually had a discussion in a private board meeting where we talked about body worn cameras, we had a report that was presented to them with regard to that and we talked about the pros and cons about a body worn camera program and so the board was wanting to do a little bit more exploration and I assume that will be a conservation going forward. But knowing that body cameras were in two of these recommendations, I think just adds to the conservation that we will have with the Police Board of Commissioners.”
Another recommendation provided by the jury was the Regina Police Service to have an emergency list of elders willing to attend. Bray noted that the police currently meets with an elderly advisory council. Bray is looking forward to continue meeting with the elderly advisory council. He isn’t sure if elders would be willing to attend a situation in person, but added that the discussion will be ongoing with the council, and he’s looking forward to that.
The jury’s final recommendation was to ask the Regina Police Service to bring awareness to the public surrounding people’s mental health and a mental health warrant. Bray said “We have seen exceptional growth when it comes to training and understanding in our police service. Mental health training is apart of basic police recruit training and now permutates right through the police office and through a police officer’s career. We have a section in our police training that is dedicated to helping people with mental health or mental illness, our police in crisis team they do regular ongoing training with our front line, our front line members can actually do small pieces of work within that section and I think that it gives them a better idea of how to help people that are in mental crisis.”
Bray also appreciated the efforts of the jurors of the inquest for being able to complete the hard task of listening to the emotional testimony this week, and providing the recommendations to the police.