London, Ont. police officer convicted in dying of Indigenous girl

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Printed Monday, September 21, 2020 four:21PM EDT

A seasoned police officer who failed to supply medical assist for an Indigenous girl following a lethal drug overdose can be spending the following 12 months in jail, a southern Ontario choose dominated Monday.

The sentence in opposition to Const. Nicholas Doering comes almost a 12 months after he was deemed answerable for the dying of Debra Chrisjohn, who died whereas within the London, Ont., police officer’s custody in September 2016.

Ontario Superior Court docket Justice Renee Pomerance convicted Doering of failing to supply the necessaries of life and prison negligence inflicting dying, saying on the time he was partially influenced by stereotypes about drug customers when he didn’t summon medical assist for Chrisjohn and lied to fellow officers about her situation.

In handing down her sentence on Monday, Pomerance mentioned she strove to strike a steadiness between the non-custodial sentence sought by Doering’s defence lawyer and the crown’s request that the nine-year veteran of town’s police drive spend as much as two years in jail.

She mentioned that whereas she needed to account for what she described as Doering’s evident regret, his psychological well being and the elevated restrictions he would face as an inmate as a result of COVID-19, time in custody was the one acceptable punishment for Chrisjohn’s dying.

“This case requires a sentence of actual jail,” Pomerance wrote in her determination. “Nothing in need of that may mirror the gravity of the offences on this case. The sentence imposed by court docket should denounce, within the strongest phrases, the conduct of the offender, and the ensuing hurt. It should reinforce the societal values that have been breached: the sanctity of human life, the best of all individuals to a minimal customary of care, and the responsibility of police to deal with all individuals of their custody with respect and humanity.”

Particulars of Chrisjohn’s life and remaining hours emerged throughout Doering’s October 2019 trial.

Court docket heard Doering and one other London police officer crossed paths with Chrisjohn in September 2016 after receiving quite a few studies that an agitated girl was attempting to enter automobiles and wandering into site visitors.

Whereas arresting Chrisjohn and speaking with fellow officers, Doering realized that the 39-year-old was needed on an excellent warrant issued by the Ontario Provincial Police.

Pomerance mentioned officers from each forces agreed to satisfy to switch Chrisjohn into OPP custody, and Doering was assigned to drive her to a rendezvous with provincial officers.

Court docket heard Chrisjohn was alert and acutely aware when Doering put her at the back of his cruiser. Earlier than Doering drove off, court docket heard a paramedic noticed Chrisjohn via the cruiser window however mentioned any checks of her important indicators would possible be skewed as a result of the truth that she was excessive on methamphetamine.

Over the following 45 minutes, court docket heard that Chrisjohn’s situation deteriorated considerably. She went from sitting upright and speaking to mendacity on her facet whereas moaning and shaking.

In summarizing Doering’s testimony, Pomerance mentioned the officer stopped the cruiser as soon as, however solely to make sure that Chrisjohn had not slipped out of her handcuffs.

The gravity of Chrisjohn’s situation grew to become evident in a video prosecutors offered at trial, Pomerance wrote. She summarized the video as displaying a limp, immobile Chrisjohn being dragged into the cells at an OPP detention centre.

She was ultimately taken to a hospital in St. Thomas, Ont., for remedy, however pronounced useless that night. Court docket heard her dying was brought on by a coronary heart assault associated to a methamphetamine overdose.

Pomerance dominated that extra immediate medical consideration may have saved Chrisjohn’s life, and mentioned Doering ought to have tried to acquire it for her.

“Const. Doering had pre-conceived notions about drug customers and he held quick to these notions when coping with Ms. Chrisjohn,” she wrote when handing down her verdict, noting Indigenous girls are notably susceptible to such stereotyping.

Doering’s lawyer, Lucas O’Hara, argued the officer has been recognized with post-traumatic stress dysfunction stemming from Chrisjohn’s dying and the following trial. He contended jail time would take an excessive amount of of a toll on Doering’s psychological well being and he ought to face a conditional sentence as an alternative.

Whereas Pomerance described the general public condemnation Doering has confronted as a mitigating issue, she mentioned his “wreckless disregard” for Chrisjohn’s well-being demanded a harsher sentence.

“The essence of culpability lies in Const. Doering’s devaluation of Ms. Chrisjohn’s life,” she wrote. “The sentence should convey the irrefutable message that Ms. Chrisjohn’s life was valued and helpful.”

An announcement issued by Doering’s authorized crew introduced he had launched an attraction of his convictions and laid out one of many points it intends to lift when difficult his responsible verdict.

“It will likely be inconceivable to discover a one-size suits all answer to the issue of partaking law enforcement officials within the evaluation of the altering medical dangers posed by intoxicated individuals,” it learn. “Greatest efforts to switch the discretion exercised by officers with an goal matrix of observations to direct their response will nonetheless undergo from a fabric threat of failure.”

London Police Chief Steve Williams mentioned in an announcement that Doering can be suspended with pay.

This report by The Canadian Press was first revealed Sept. 21, 2020.