FORT MACLEOD — A former staff sergeant says it’s unfortunate there were no cameras in the holding cell where an RCMP officer shot and killed a southern Alberta man.
Gary Mills, who was the commander of the Pincher Creek detachment at the time, told a fatality inquiry a request for cameras had been made the year before.
But there wasn’t enough money in the budget.
The inquiry is reviewing the death of Darren Varley, who was shot by former Mountie Mike Ferguson in a jail cell in October 1999.
Ferguson was found guilty of manslaughter after three trials.
The detachment has since installed cameras in its jail cells.
“We had asked our property management folks to see if we could put cameras in our cellblock area and I think the cost was about $12,000,” Mills said outside the inquiry Tuesday. “At the time, there was a budget issue, they didn’t have the money, so therefore we didn’t get the cameras.”
Mills also suggested that night’s events may have been much different if a second officer had been on duty to back up Ferguson.
“It’s the small-town policeman or policewoman who’s out there all by themselves — those are the people that we have to try and make sure that they’re safe also.”
Judge Derek Redman is presiding over the inquiry and can make recommendations on how to prevent a similar death.
Questions still remain about whether Ferguson will appear before the inquiry. The Varley family has voiced its displeasure over the possibility that he may not be called to testify as originally planned.
Connie Varley, the victim’s sister-in-law, said the family wants to hear from Ferguson.
“There are unanswered questions that still remain with us and he’s the only person who can answer them,” she said. “Those questions will never get answered if he doesn’t take the stand.”
Varley, who was 26, had been drinking at a bar with his friends when one of them was injured and the group went to the hospital where Varley was proving unruly.
Witnesses testified during the first part of the inquiry last October that when Ferguson arrived, he was already angry and hostile toward Varley and the others and told them he didn’t like drunks.
They said the officer punched Varley with no provocation and refused his sister’s pleas that she take her brother home.
The inquiry has also been told Ferguson had a history of anger issues and had several complaints filed against him by civilians and fellow officers.
Ferguson put Varley in a cell and shortly afterwards a scuffle broke out between the two. Varley was shot once in the abdomen and once in the head. Ferguson’s defence lawyer argued that his client acted in self-defence because Varley had grabbed his gun.