Toronto

Police watchdog probes 3rd death in which Peel officers administered naloxone

Ontario's police watchdog is investigating the death of a man in Brampton after he received the anti-opiod drug naxolone from Peel police.

Police attempted to revive a man, 50, using CPR and naloxone before paramedics arrived

A nasal spray containing Naloxone is shown here. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids such as heroin, methadone, fentanyl and morphine. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Ontario's police watchdog is investigating the third death in Peel Region involving officers who administered the anti-overdose drug naloxone.

In the latest case, a 50-year-old man was pronounced dead in hospital on Friday night after Peel Regional Police officers performed first aid at a home on Main Street in Brampton. 

In a news release on Sunday, the Special Investigations Unit said police were called to the home at around 11 p.m. and attempted to resuscitate the man. 

"Naloxone was administered," the SIU said.

According to Jay Szymanski, superintendent for Peel Region Paramedic Services, police arrived at the scene before paramedics. 

Police were already performing CPR when paramedics took over, he added. Paramedics transported the man to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. 
Ontario's Special Investigations Unit is investigating the third death in Peel Region involving officers who administered the anti-opioid overdose drug naxolone.

The SIU said two investigators and two forensic investigators have been assigned to the case. 

An autopsy is scheduled for Sunday.

Peel police said they are not in a position to comment on the case.

"Unfortunately, once the SIU involves its mandate, our hands are tied," Const. Harinder Sohi told CBC Toronto on Sunday.

SIU terminated 2 other investigations

The SIU previously investigated a death in Brampton on March 12 and a death in Mississauga on April 6, both of which involved Peel police administering naloxone.

In both cases, the SIU terminated the investigations, saying police actions did not contribute to the deaths. 
Peel police officers have been carrying naloxone in nasal spray form since June 2017. (CBC)

Peel police officers have been carrying naloxone, in the form of a nasal spray, since June 2017.

Const. Adrian Woolley, president of the Peel Regional Police Association, has said that SIU investigations into such cases are unnecessary.

Woolley has said the SIU investigations cause undue stress on officers "acting in good faith"  because they expose police to criminal liability when they are trying to save lives. The association acts as a bargaining agent for 2,900 members.

In a tweet on Sunday, Woolley questioned the cost of such investigations.

In a statement to CBC Toronto late Sunday, SIU spokesperson Monica Hudon said the cases fall within the SIU's purview. 

"The SIU is mandated to investigate any incident involving police where there has been serious injury or death. If naloxone was administered or any life saving measure such as CPR was performed — and the individual sustained serious injury or died — that would fall under the SIU's mandate," she said. 

For its part, the Ontario government has said it is amending the law governing the SIU to ensure it will not investigate cases involving police officers who try to save lives by administering naloxone in "specific circumstances."

Brian Gray, spokesperson for the attorney general's ministry, said in an email that the government has passed a motion to amend Bill 175,  Safer Ontario Act, to direct the SIU not to investigate "a narrow of cases" where a police officer administers first aid but has no further interaction with the person needing medical help.

Gray added police will still be obligated by law to notify the SIU of incidents where police are involved in the death or serious injury of a person.

"This will ensure continued robust oversight of policing, while avoiding unnecessary investigations in situations where police officers provide immediate medical care to a person," Gray said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact the SIU's lead investigator. It is also urging anyone with video evidence to upload that video through its website.