WARNING: This story contains details that some readers may find upsetting.
An investigation into the death of a Courtenay man who died by suicide has cleared the RCMP of wrongdoing in the incident.
The Independent Investigation Office of British Columbia (IIOBC) says that officers acted reasonably during and after the execution of a search warrant late last summer.
According to the decision from IIOBC released on Thursday, RCMP officers attended a residence in Courtenay on August 17, 2020, at 8:10 a.m. to execute a search warrant.
A man inside told officers that the warrant was for him, and one of the officers activated an audio recorder as they searched inside.
The audio recording captured the conversation between the man and another of the officers, who stayed with the man while the search was underway.
According to IIOBC, the conversation turned highly personal and the man said that he wanted kill himself.
This prompted the officer to inquire about the man’s wellbeing.
“When you say these thing [sic] to me as a police officer I have to take these things very seriously, okay?” the officer can be heard saying, according to the report.
“So when you make those comments to me I have to act upon them. And if you really feel that way, then it’s my obligation as a human being and as a police office [sic] to make sure that you are safe. Because above and beyond any of this, you’re still a human.”
No other direct quotations from the audio recording were included in the public decision released by IIOBC.
The decision goes on to say that the conversation continued for 52 minutes, and concluded with the man saying he no longer wanted to commit suicide.
According to IIOBC, the man offered “concrete and compelling examples” of reasons to live.
The RCMP departed the residence at approximately 9:06 a.m. The officer who had spoken to the man informed one of the other two officers about the conversation, but also said that they felt it was safe to leave.
Two roommates of the man were also present during the search but did not hear the conversation between the officer and the man.
Shortly after police departed, one of the roommates phoned police to inquire if they would be returning and was informed they would not. The officer who had spoken to the man earlier also asked to speak to the man again and took down his date of birth.
Approximately 12 hours later, one of the roommates called the police again and told them he had not seen the man who had expressed suicidal thoughts all day.
RCMP responded to the residence and found the man deceased from an overdose. A suicide note was found near his body, which read “I told Blond cop this was going to happen.”
IIOBC Chief Civilian Director Ronald MacDonald wrote in his decision that the officer who had spoken to the man acted reasonably and in a manner that did not represent “a marked and substantial departure from the appropriate standard of care.”
“The challenge in a case such as this is that in hindsight it appears that [the man] was not being truthful with the officer when he said he did not actually wish to take his own life,” MacDonald wrote.
“However, this case must be based on what the officer knew at the time. A police officer is not held to a legal standard of perfection when making assessments about a person’s mental health.”
The director went on to cite the amount of time the officer spent with the man and the audio recording as further evidence against referring the case to Crown counsel for charges.
If you or someone you know needs help, call the B.C. Crisis Centre Distress Line number at 1-800-SUICIDE or 1-800-784-2433.