By Stephane Massinon, Calgary Herald
April 26, 2011 7:29 PM
Almost 12 years after the fatal shooting of a
26-year-old man in a Pincher Creek RCMP cellblock, the Mounties are
still in the process of updating their facilities.
A fatality inquiry report released Tuesday into
the October 1999 shooting of Darren John Varley at the hands of RCMP
Const. Michael Ferguson made numerous recommendations on police
procedures when they take someone into custody.
Varley was arrested for public intoxication before
a scuffle in the cell that led to him being shot twice.
The report recommends that all RCMP detachments have lockboxes for
securing firearms and video surveillance cameras. Pincher Creek did not
have either at the time and Ferguson claimed Varley tried to reach for
his weapon.Lockboxes have been standard in new detachments since 2003.
“Some older detachments may not have them, but a directive has been
issued to make sure they are installed in all detachments,” said RCMP
spokesman Sgt. Tim Taniguchi
Sixty-nine of 110 detachments in Alberta now
have video surveillance. They are being implemented over time to spread
out their cost.
Inquiry Judge Derek Redman also recommended that
RCMP firearms be secured before a prisoner is removed from a police
vehicle or handcuffs are removed. He also said that prisoner processing
areas should be firearms-free unless there are extenuating
Redman also recommended that handcuffs not be
removed from a combative prisoner until he or she displays rational
behaviour, that RCMP officers receive better training on the limitations
of their holsters, that the Mounties develop a policy on the position of
jail guards and that complaints against RCMP members be investigated
promptly and thoroughly.
In a statement, RCMP officials said they are
acting on all recommendations.
“While nothing can change what happened 11
years ago, the RCMP hopes that this report will bring some sense of
closure to the Varley family,” said Assistant Commissioner Marianne
Ryan, criminal operations officer of the force’s Alberta-based K
“I want to assure the Varley family — and all
Canadians — that the RCMP has made significant changes over the past
decade to prevent this sort of profoundly sad circumstance from
happening again,” said Ryan.
The Mounties say they now have a system in
place to “identify, track and monitor and hold accountable” employees
with behavioural issues.
Ferguson had numerous complaints against him
before the shooting. For instance, he once threatened another officer,
saying, “You’re lucky you’re a woman or I would deck you,” after an
argument. In another case, he bodychecked a basketball referee after a
game while off-duty.
Independent policing expert Thomas Aveni, who
testified during the inquiry, said the officer’s issues should have been
“It seemed like what few corrective actions
were taken late and they were ineffectual,” said Aveni.
In his report, Aveni recommended the lockboxes
as well as better-trained and younger jail guards. He said the force
preferred hiring seniors to pay them less.
“Their position was that they can’t afford to
hire the type of people they should be hiring,” he said.
Instead, he said guard jobs should be treated
as segues into law enforcement positions for younger adults.
He did, however, praise the national police
force after seeing how they had changed their practices after the
“We found them up to, commensurate with, the
best policy models we found anywhere,” said Aveni, executive director of
the Police Policy
Ferguson was convicted in 2004 of manslaughter
in the shooting death after two previous trials ended in hung juries. He
was paroled in 2006.
The officer did not testify at the fatality
inquiry because of his depression.
He retired from the force