Whistler police alter policies for dealing with drunks

Whistler RCMP has changed its policies in dealing with grossly intoxicated people in police custody after an incident during the 2010 Games when a 20-year-old Vancouver university student fell and struck his head multiple times while being held for public drunkenness.

Silas Rogers, a student at the University of B.C., suffered a massive heart attack related to cocaine use less than 24 hours after being released from a cell at the Whistler RCMP detachment. Though B.C. coroner Owen Court found "no connection" between Rogers falling eight times in the Whistler cell and his ultimate death, the coroner's report into the death cites concerns with how he was cared for by Whistler police.

"I find it troubling that an obviously intoxicated individual fell and struck his head numerous times while in police custody, yet received so little attention," Court wrote in his June 13 report, which was recently made public.

The report says jail guards were unable to fully appreciate Rogers' intoxicated state, not able to observe him "violently" striking his head multiple times because a video monitor wasn't working for more than an hour. The officers conducted extra physical checks during the time the monitor wasn't working, but still weren't able to watch Rogers constantly.

Staff Sgt. Steve LeClair of the Whistler RCMP said both an internal review and an investigation by Vancouver Police took place at the detachment after Rogers collapsed so soon after being held in custody. The review led to changes in policy such as conducting more frequent checks on intoxicated individuals if any surveillance equipment is malfunctioning and consideration given to use of a restraint chair to keep people from falling down while intoxicated, LeClair said Friday (July 8). A spare monitor has also been obtained as a backup should another malfunction occur.

Public drunkenness is one of the biggest police issues in Whistler, LeClair said. In 2010, 1,083 people were held in police custody, with 931 in 2009. While those figures include all people who are held in Whistler cells, a majority are people who are drunk in public or causing a disturbance while intoxicated, he said.

"Whistler being a place where people come to party, we do end up with a lot of intoxicated people," he said.

During the Olympics in February 2010, arrests for public drunkenness definitely increased, LeClair said. While a typical night in the Village might see two arrests for the offence, that jumped to probably eight or 10 per night, he estimated.

According to the coroner's report, Rogers traveled by bus from UBC to Whistler with two friends on the morning of Feb. 23, 2010. Through the day, Rogers consumed a significant quantity of alcohol and a prescription drug used to treat anxiety and seizures.

"He was reportedly heavily intoxicated and fell at least three times over a period of several hours," the report states.

At about 5 p.m. Rogers and his friends were waiting in line to get inside the Whistler Sliding Centre when he was noticed by security officers and denied entry because he was intoxicated to the point that he couldn't walk without assistance. He was arrested and transferred to the Whistler RCMP detachment to be held until he was sober.

He was held from about 6 p.m. until 3:30 a.m. The video surveillance showed him falling and hitting his head on the floor and walls of the cell eight times between 6 and 8 p.m.

After he was released, Rogers went to the UBC Whistler Lodge and reportedly continued to drink alcohol and take prescription drugs through the day on Feb. 24, the report says. He and a friend took a bus back to UBC that afternoon and Rogers reportedly continued drinking and took both heroin and cocaine.

Rogers went to bed at about 1 a.m. and was found unresponsive an hour later. Paramedics found him in cardiac arrest and he was taken to Vancouver Hospital where he died on the morning of Feb. 26.

Court determined the cause of death was a cocaine-induced heart attack, with ongoing drug abuse noted as an underlying contributor.

LeClair said Rogers was "very polite and cooperative" when he was in police custody in Whistler.

"It's certainly a terrible tragedy that a young man's lost his life," he said.

article continues below
© Copyright Whistler Question

Question POLL

Is Whistler doing a better job of co-existing with bears?

or  view results

Popular Question Local