Truro police didn't properly monitor a woman who suffered a fatal stroke in their custody and was left lying on the cement floor of the lockup for four hours in her own urine, according to a new report.
The results of an investigation — ordered by Nova Scotia Justice Minister Ross Landry — about the 2009 death of Victoria Paul were released Thursday.
The investigation found that police:
- Failed to monitor her appropriately and provide timely access to medical assistance,
- Failed to provide her respect and dignity,
- Failed to segregate her from males in lockup,
- Failed to train police and custodians to care for prisoners.
It also concluded that a previous investigation conducted by the Halifax Regional Police that cleared Truro police of wrongdoing was "very narrow in focus."
The review was led by Nadine Cooper Mont, the Nova Scotia Police Complaints Commissioner, who said Paul wasn't medically assessed or taken to hospital until 10 hours after she was incarcerated.
"Truro police service did not appropriately monitor Victoria Rose Paul's health; nor did it provide access to medical assessment in a timely fashion," the 136-page report said.
The medical examiner who studied Paul's death said she would have died regardless of how quickly medical assistance was made available.
"This does not excuse the delay," Cooper Mont said in the report.
Paul arrested for public intoxication
Paul was arrested for public intoxication outside a Truro bar on Aug. 28, 2009. She was taken to the police lockup, where she suffered a stroke. The 44-year-old Indian Brook woman died days later in hospital.
After Paul was brought to jail, she settled down and fell asleep. When the officer in charge of the lockup visited her cell nearly five hours after she was jailed, Paul's underpants had partly fallen off, she had lost control of her bladder and was incoherent.
"It was not normal practice to place and leave a person in custody on the floor for over four hours, not normal practice to leave a person in custody in contaminated clothing," the report said.
"It was not normal practice to allow a person in custody to lie in his or her urine for an extended time."
The Truro Police Service and its board plan to review the report.
"No one has to be treated that way and we accept the responsibility for that," Truro Police Chief Dave MacNeil told CBC News.
"We accept the recommendations and the findings of the report and we look forward to implementing those immediately."
Report contains 10 recommendations
Paul's family had repeatedly called for an inquiry to determine whether she received proper, timely care while at the jail.
"What I want to know is, could there have been more done," said Stephen Julian, Paul's father.
Cheryl Maloney, president of the Nova Scotia Native Women's Association, said the report is disturbing to the aboriginal community where Paul grew up.
"Nobody is going to say it's race but I don't know what else we can identify because yes, maybe we're all the same once we get thrown in the drunk tank," she told reporters at a news conference in Indian Brook.
"What this report says is, 'No, this was not the same. This was not normal, the way she was treated.'"
The report contains 10 recommendations, including the implementation of better policies to assess the condition of intoxicated people when they're brought to jail and better sharing of information during shift changes.
It also urges the provincial government to update and clarify the rules on jail cell inspections, a measure the justice minister said will be implemented.
"Human nature is human nature and the facts are the facts and now that we know, what can we do differently or what can we do better to make this a healthier, safer community?" said Landry.