The Yukon's top Mountie says a government review of the RCMP will help rebuild public trust, which has recently been shaken by an inquest into the death of a man in police custody.
The Dec. 2, 2008, death of Raymond Silverfox in the Whitehorse RCMP's detachment cells has been the subject of a coroner's inquest that continues Thursday in the Yukon capital.
The inquest has heard that Silverfox, 43, was left largely unattended in the drunk tank for 12 hours, during which time he vomited 26 times and defecated in his cell.
Silverfox was found unresponsive in the cell that evening and was rushed to hospital, where he later died.
Testimony and evidence from the inquest prompted Yukon MLAs to unanimously vote this week to start a review of the RCMP's policing in the territory.
'We must act': superintendent
Acting Supt. Peter Clark said the issues raised in the Silverfox inquest have called into question the RCMP's commitment to its principles, which include compassion, respect, professionalism and accountability.
"While the RCMP tries to live up to its core values at all times, there is no question that we, from time to time, fall short of that goal," said Clark, who will co-chair the government's review committee.
"This is disappointing to us and it can shake the trust of those we serve. What is important, for us, is to recognize that when this occurs, we must act to correct the situation."
Silverfox is one of four people who have died in Yukon RCMP's custody over the past decade.
The government review committee will hold public consultations across the Yukon this summer, then present its findings by Sept. 15.
"The review is talking about being transparent with people we are serving, about how we're responding to their complaints," Clark said.
Working with communities
The review will look at how the RCMP engages with people, Clark said, adding that the police force encourages officers to get advice from local elders or other community resources when making decisions.
Clark said while the federal government wants to get tough on crime, the RCMP can still work closely with communities.
"We are talking about an agreement we have with the Yukon territory and delivering on the priorities the minister has set for the police service," he said.
Justice Minister Marian Horne said a range of Yukoners will be involved in the police review committee, despite the fact that her Yukon Party cabinet rejected opposition efforts to include minority groups.
"They will include First Nations women, they will include the people that were questioned, and we will be consulting with the individual groups that were mentioned," she said of the review.
"This is a precedent-setting adventure we're going on."
Died of heart failure
As the Silverfox inquest continued Thursday, the emergency room doctor who saw Silverfox after he was taken to hospital said he died of heart failure and was suffering from sepsis and acute pneumonia.
Dr. Sherillynne Himmelsbach testified that Silverfox was on a ventilator and intravenous drip when he arrived at the hospital.
Doctors tried to save him, but Silverfox was pronounced dead at 9:13 p.m.
Himmelsbach said it was not known that he had pneumonia until after the autopsy was done.