The B.C. RCMP says it will review recommendations from jurors who called for police to look at how they handle serious calls.
Staff Sgt. Annie Linteau says the RCMP takes very seriously recommendations issued by a coroner’s inquest into the death of a woman who spent four days paralyzed and dying inside her home in Mission, B.C., in 2008.
The inquest heard this week that two RCMP officers responded to a call about shots fired in the rural neighbourhood, but they did not get out of their vehicles to investigate or contact the neighbour who called 911.
Inside the home, 37-year-old Lisa Dudley and her boyfriend had been shot, and the woman lay in the home for four days until a neighbour checked in and called for help. Dudley died in the ambulance on the way to hospital.
The inquest issued its written verdict Thursday night and made nine recommendations, including that RCMP explore policies around following up on calls about “potential grievous bodily harm” like shootings and stabbings, and look at increased training if such policies are already in place.
Linteau says each of the recommendations will be “thoroughly reviewed” and the force will provide a full written response to the BC Coroners Service.
“We welcome any opportunity to examine existing procedures and policies as they apply to front-line policing and police operations in order to ensure that we are providing the best policing services to the public,” Linteau said in an email.
The jury also recommended the force implement a mandatory routine review and training on “First Response Investigations Policy” at all levels.
The jury called on the police dispatch service to review its procedures and training to make sure employees “properly and thoroughly document all details reported by a complainant,” and that all calls are recorded and can be made public under access to information laws.
A recording was played at the hearing where Cpl. Michael White, then a constable with seven years of experience, laughed with a police dispatcher about a 911 call made by Dudley’s neighbour.
“Six gunshots in a row and a crash,” the officer said before laughing.
“Yeah, exactly. Don’t you love this?” the dispatcher replied.
A lawyer for Dudley’s family asked White during his testimony to the jury if he thought a shots-fired call was funny.
“No, it’s not funny,” he told the inquest. “I was skeptical.”
White told the five-member jury he had reservations about the call because it was an unusually high number of gunshots and it had only been reported by one neighbour.
The RCMP later gave the officer a written reprimand and docked him a day’s pay as punishment.
The jury also made recommendations for B.C.’s Ministry of Public Safety, saying it should review how complaints of potential grievous bodily harm are investigated by all police agencies across the province, and explore implementing mandatory training for responding to those complaints.
A statement from the ministry thanked the jurors for their recommendations and said they would be considered carefully.
Jurors also wanted to see BC Emergency Health Services explore options for “a designated air ambulance that is better equipped to allow patient care during transport,” the inquest’s verdict said.
The service said it had not yet received the recommendations formally and would provided comment once they had been received and considered in full.
The goal of an inquest is not to lay blame, but to determine the events that led to a person’s death and make recommendations to prevent similar deaths in the future.
Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press