'Things need to change:' Halifax police officers charged after 2016 death in custody
Corey Rogers, 41, died in a Halifax police cell on June 16, 2016, a few hours after he was arrested for public drunkenness.
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Criminal charges come as a relief, but they’re not the end of one mother’s fight against the system that saw her son as a “nuisance.”
Corey Rogers, 41, died in a Halifax police cell in the early morning hours of June 16, 2016. He was arrested a few hours earlier for public drunkenness outside the IWK Children’s Hospital in Halifax, where his daughter was born the night before – his fourth child.
After an investigation by Nova Scotia’s Serious Incident Response Team, Halifax Regional Police Special Constables Daniel Fraser and Cheryl Gardner were indicted in provincial court on Tuesday on charges of criminal negligence causing Rogers’ death.
“I’m relieved in a way,” Rogers’ mother, Jeannette Rogers, said outside the courtroom on Tuesday.
Rogers hoped three arresting officers would be charged as well, but the fact that charges were laid against the two booking officers, she said, “speaks volumes to the fact that he wasn’t treated properly.” Rogers described his treatment, which she saw on video, as “less than humane.”
Rogers has been diagnosed with PTSD since her son’s death, but she plans to attend every court hearing.
“It’s not just important in the sense of accountability, but it’s important because this will be my son’s legacy,” she said. “Things need to change within the system, or some other family’s going to end up standing where I am.”
That’s why Rogers is pursuing other avenues as well; she said she’s filed a complaint with the city’s Board of Police Commissioners, asked the provincial justice department to launch an inquiry, and begun the process to sue the municipality, seeking restorative justice.
“The system saw him as a drunk and a nuisance,” Rogers said of her son, who she described as an alcoholic. “To those of us who knew and loved him, he was far more than that.”
Corey was a caring, intelligent man with a “wonderful sense of humour” who loved to read and play chess, Rogers said.
“He was a father, a son, a partner, a brother. He was a person.”
In a statement, Halifax Regional Police offered their condolences to Rogers’ family, and stressed the force’s commitment to caring for people in custody.
“Proper care of those in custody is a priority for us, and as such, we review and enhance our practices and are confident in our employees’ ability to appropriately manage the care of people in custody,” the statement reads.
The officers accused in Rogers’ death did not appear in court on Tuesday, with lawyers acting on their behalf.
Both Fraser and Gardner, who’ve been with Halifax Regional Police since 2004 and 2011, respectively, are still employed with the force, but court imposed conditions bar them from working as booking officers.
Defence lawyer Joel Pink, who’s representing Gardner, said he hadn’t received the evidence against his client yet.
The Manitoba Prosecution Service will be prosecuting the case in court. In July, Nova Scotia’s Public Prosecution Service referred the case to the Manitoba Crown to avoid a conflict of interest.
The case was adjourned till Jan. 22, 2018, when Pink and lawyer David Bright, who’s representing Fraser, will tell the court whether their clients want to be tried by Supreme Court judge alone, or by judge and jury.