The RCMP has issued a media release stating that a recent B.C. Civil Liberties Association report on in-custody deaths contains “inaccurate” information.
“The BCCLA news release directly compares 267 police involved deaths in B.C. with 113 deaths in Ontario over a 16 year period,” the Mounties' November 10 release states. “This comparison is misleading and is based on incorrect figures.”
It continues: “Official data from the Office of the Chief Coroner in the Province of Ontario shows that during the 16 year period between 1992-2007 there were in fact 316 deaths in Ontario that involved the police, and not 113 as reported by the BCCLA.”
The BCCLA’s October 27 report claimed that between 1992 and 2007, B.C. saw one police-related death for every 254,550 people per year, and that in comparison, Ontario saw one death for every 1.63 million people per year.
David Eby, executive director for the BCCLA, took issue with what he described as the RCMP’s suggestion that in-custody deaths are not a problem in the province.
He conceded that on a per capita basis, police-related deaths in B.C. were not seven and a half times higher than in Ontario, as was previously claimed. But Eby emphasized that even when using the new numbers released by the RCMP, B.C. still has a per capita rate of in-custody deaths two and a half times higher than Ontario.
He went on to call attention to the difficulty his office had in accessing reliable information on police-related deaths.
“We did FOI requests for months and the RCMP was able to get detailed charts from the Ontario coroners service in about a week and a half,” Eby said. “They are the best place to collect and compare these statistics, rather than expecting non-profit organizations to toil through months of FOI requests to try and figure out what is happening.”
A BCCLA October 27 media release related to the original report notes that of the provinces examined, B.C. had the largest number of police-involved deaths per year per capita. The RCMP’s November 10 release does not dispute the accuracy of that claim.
Here is the full text of the RCMP's release:
Incorrect figures used in BCCLA report
2010-11-10 13:58 PST
The RCMP is correcting inaccurate information circulating in the public domain regarding in custody and police involved deaths.
As a result of a news release and report on police in custody deaths published by the BC Civil Liberties Association, incorrect information is being quoted by media. The BCCLA news release directly compares 267 police involved deaths in BC with 113 deaths in Ontario over a 16 year period. This comparison is misleading and is based on incorrect figures.
Official data from the Office of the Chief Coroner in the Province of Ontario shows that during the 16 year period between 1992-2007 there were in fact 316 deaths in Ontario that involved the police, and not 113 as reported by the BCCLA.
To provide further context to this issue, police involved or “in custody” deaths have a broad definition in British Columbia. The following scenarios would be investigated as an “in custody” death in BC:
”¢ A person running from police who falls and sustains a fatal injury.
”¢ A person suffering from a drug overdose and police must physically restrain the person to assist paramedics, but who later dies in hospital.
”¢ A death connected in any way to a vehicle pursuit with police.
”¢ A person shot by police, regardless of the circumstances.
”¢ A person who dies for any reason in a police cell including overdose, suicide or medical condition, or who dies in hospital or at home after being in a police cell.
”¢ Other: Any situation where someone died and the police had some level of involvement with that person prior to the death.
The issue of police involved deaths cannot be compared directly from province to province because every province appears to have a different definition of what actually constitutes a police involved death.
Ontario custody deaths 1992-2007 (this report includes deaths in provincial and federal institutions. These numbers are not included in the definition of police involved deaths.)
Ontario police action and chase deaths 1992-2007
BC police involved deaths 1992-2007
Insp. Tim Shields
Officer in Charge
"E" Div. Strategic Communications Section
You can follow Travis Lupick on Twitter at twitter.com/tlupick.