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B.C. mother joins calls for police body cameras following son’s death 5 years ago

Click to play video: 'Mother of B.C. man who died after confrontation with VPD calls for police body cameras'
Mother of B.C. man who died after confrontation with VPD calls for police body cameras
Myles Gray died in August 2015 after a confrontation with Vancouver Police officers and after almost five years of waiting for answers in his death, his mother is now adding her voice to the renewed call for police to wear body cameras. Sarah MacDonald reports – Jun 9, 2020

It’s been nearly five years since the death of Myles Gray, who died from a litany of injuries sustained during a fatal encounter with Vancouver police officers in 2015 – a fractured voice box, a broken nose, eye socket, and sternum, and a ruptured testicle, among other injuries—and still, Gray’s mother, Margie Reed, has no closure.

“What other job is out there where you’re not accountable? Where you can just go out and do this to an unarmed person, who’s not really a threat? It doesn’t make any sense,” Reed said.

“So, now is the time for change,” she said from her home on the Sunshine Coast, where her only son was based as an independent businessman before his death.

He was unarmed and found to be unintoxicated at the time of his death.

READ MORE: 4 years after Myles Gray died following VPD altercation, family frustrated by lack of charges

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Gray, 33, was working in Vancouver on the afternoon of Aug. 13, 2015, when he died.

The Vancouver Police Department says its responding officers were initially called to the 3600-block of South East Marine Drive for a complaint of a man causing a disturbance, and spraying a woman with a garden hose. Gray, who had been dropping off deliveries to houses in the neighbourhood bordering Vancouver and Burnaby, was briefly pursued by officers; pepper spray was used by officers, and a physical altercation between Gray and the responding officers ensued shortly after.

What happened next, and exactly what lead to Gray’s death and the hospitalization of multiple responding officers, is something virtually nobody knows for certain, except for the officers themselves.

With no civilian witnesses and no surveillance footage documenting the altercation, Reed says the investigation into her son’s case could have been resolved years ago had the officers involved been wearing body cameras.

Click to play video: 'Myles Gray’s family desperate for answers'
Myles Gray’s family desperate for answers

“Now that we’re having this huge dialogue about police brutality and racism, it is time to have the body cam talk. And not only talk about it, to actually implement it. And make it mandatory. For all police,” Reed insisted.

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The province’s police watchdog, which was handed the case involving the Vancouver Police Department and Gray almost immediately, agrees with Reed’s sentiment.

“Well, it certainly would have given us some very important information about what happened on the scene. Because we didn’t have any civilian witnesses or any video of what had occurred. So, certainly, that type of evidence would be very valuable to us,” Ron MacDonald, chief civilian director of the Independent Investigations Office of B.C. told Global News.

“In order to maintain the public’s faith in the accountability of police, and the investigations we do, I think it’s time for officers to wear body cameras,” he added.

“We’ve reached a point in our society where, because we’re so familiar with everything being caught on camera – and every person basically walks around with a camera – the public expects the police to do the same.”

Click to play video: 'IIO releases report into death of man at the hands of Vancouver police'
IIO releases report into death of man at the hands of Vancouver police

The Vancouver police told Global News in a statement that its department, along with others across Canada, have been studying the feasibility of implementing body-worn cameras for years now: as early as 2012, and as recently as 2018.

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But, according to the department, implementing the technology, which would consistently capture objective video footage, is cost prohibitive. The department cited the cost to buy and maintain the cameras themselves, and to store the tens of thousands of hours of footage and data they’d ultimately capture.

“Further, there are concerns that the cameras provide a specific view that is unlikely to convey the totality of the situation; and there are privacy considerations for members of the public,” Const. Tania Visintin said in a statement on behalf of the department.

“Although, we have extensively reviewed body-worn cameras in the past, we are always open for discussions on the viability of its implementation.”

But, for Reed, the implementation of body-worn cameras, not only within the Vancouver Police Department, but for all police officers and RCMP members working on the front lines, is long overdue.

“I really believe that if you have nothing to hide, it should not be a problem. It’s time for that to become mandatory,” she said.

READ MORE: IIO asks Crown to consider charges in police-involved death of Myles Gray

Reed believes that, had there been photographic documentation in her son’s case, she’d have closure by now and perhaps some semblance of justice. The IIO forwarded its report on the case, which was hindered by a lack of cooperation by at least one witness officer, to the B.C. Prosecution Service for consideration of charges in January of 2019; it was received by the B.C. Prosecution Service in March, 16 months ago. Still, no timeline has been provided by the B.C. Prosecution Service for when a decision might be made, and publicly announced.

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“It’s going to be five years this August [since Gray’s death], with no end date in sight with the Crown’s decision. So, if there was video, this would have been done and dusted a long time ago. It would have been resolved by now, for sure,” insisted Reed.

Reed had previously been advised by Crown counsel to expect a decision on the charge assessment to be delivered sometime between June of this year and the fall.

But, nearly halfway through June and with COVID-19 restrictions now in place, she’s not optimistic her son’s case, which has seemingly lagged at every turn of its investigation for years, without much explanation or communication to Gray’s family or the media, will be prioritized.

“My ideal outcome for Myles, is that [the witness and subject officers] are charged in concert. Because there are no body cams, you don’t know who did what and when—so, you can’t really hold one or two [officers] accountable for the actions. They need to be charged in concert,” said Reed.
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“I don’t know if they realize there is family behind Myles, that has been horrifically traumatized.”

Click to play video: 'Myles Gray’s family still searching for answers and justice'
Myles Gray’s family still searching for answers and justice

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