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Inquest jury delivers 12 recommendations in death of Vancouver police Const. Nicole Chan


The jury in the coroner's inquest into the death of Vancouver police Const. Nicole Chan finished its deliberations Wednesday afternoon.

The five-person panel brought forward a dozen recommendations, three of them directed at Vancouver General Hospital, eight directed to the Vancouver Police Department and its Chief Const. Adam Palmer, and one directed to the Minister of Health.

Among the recommendations to the VPD were to incorporate mandatory clinical psychological interviews into the hiring process.

The jury also recommended that annual check-ins with a psychologist should be mandatory for all police officers, not just those on specialized units, and that a human resources or peer support case representative should be assigned to all employees with mental health issues.

The inquest heard that Chan had accused Sgt. Dave Van Patten of coercing her into having sex with him, and that she was fearful and frustrated that her allegations wouldn’t be taken seriously.

Chan's mental health was a key focus of the week-and-a-half-long inquest, which involved testimony from 34 witnesses.

On Jan. 26, 2019, Chan's boyfriend was so concerned for her well-being that he took her to Vancouver General Hospital.

She was released hours later, went home, and took her own life.

During the inquest, the psychiatrist who assessed Chan that night said she was initially assessed by a social worker, and was "fairly settled" by the time he spoke to her.

"She was able to rationalize and explain her actions to me," Dr. Kiran Sayyaparaju said Friday, adding that her responses led him to believe she was not an immediate danger to herself or others.

In part because of Sayyaparaju's testimony, jurors recommended to the hospital that physicians be able to access historical information for all patients that they treat.

They also recommended that the hospital ensure attending doctors have direct contact with people who accompany patients to the hospital, including paramedics, police officers, friends and family members.

The final recommendation to the hospital was that it should ensure attending doctors can take phone calls from community health care providers.

To the VPD, the jury recommended that police ensure respectful workplace training is "mandatory, rigorous, in-person and (held) on a regular basis," and that the department's respectful workplace policy recognize rumours and gossip as examples of unprofessional behaviour.

The three remaining recommendations to VPD dealt with training and responsibilities for officers in human resources and management positions.

The jury recommended that training specific to promotions should be included in training for administration and management, that officers in the HR department should receive training specific to their HR duties, and that workers in the VPD's HR department should work interdependently, not independently.

On this last recommendation, the jury noted that the witnesses from the department had been unable to satisfactorily answer questions about Chan's employment.

"When each witness was asked if they had information about Nicole's case and recruitment, all witnesses deferred to another individual in that section," the jury's spokesperson told the inquest.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Palmer offered his "continued heartfelt condolences" to Chan's family and friends, and added that the VPD would "take time to review the jury's recommendations."

"Her life and career were tragically cut short, however, Nicole’s death has highlighted the importance of our conversations about mental health and accountability in policing," the VPD chief's statement read, in part.

"These conversations are never over … We remain committed to ensuring Nicole’s death continues to lead to positive change within policing and for anyone struggling with their mental health." 

Finally, to the Minister of Health, the jury recommended that the ministry consider maintaining a database of people who have mentioned suicidal ideation to a medical professional, to allow that information to be shared more easily across health authorities as needed for a patient's care.

The jury's recommendations are non-binding, and any entity receiving a recommendation is invited to respond to the inquest as it sees fit.

The panel of three women and two men was tasked with finding practical, achievable and reasonable recommendations to prevent similar deaths from occurring in the future.Their job was not to find fault.

With files from CTV News Vancouver's St. John Alexander and Shannon Paterson Top Stories

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