#mentalhealth, #drugabuse, #Canada, #JenniferLavoie, #investigavieLaw
Ottawa, Apr 5 (Canadian-Media): Of more than 460 people killed in police encounters across Canada since the year 2000, 70 percent were mentally ill or had symptoms of drug abuse, media reports said.
42 percent of those who died were reportedly mentally distressed, while 45 per ent were under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
According to Jennifer Lavoie, a criminologist at Wilfrid Laurier University, main factors contributing to the rise in police encounters with emotional distressed people are closure of residential care facilities and a lack of resources for the mentally ill.
Use of lethal force in these cases was stigma of mental illness, believed Lavoie.
"I think officers likely have the same kinds of attitudes towards people with mental illness that the public does…people with mental illness tend to be more unpredictable, more dangerous than the general population," Lavoie said.
Some Canadian police forces including the Hamilton Police Service (HPS) had created in 2013 a special unit to intervene in crisis situations involving mental health
HamiltonPolice. Image credit: Facebook page
HPS now operates distinct squads specializing in de-escalation and mental health or substance-abuse-related calls.
Its Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams connect mental health professionals and people in distress with medical and community services with the police and added such units should be mandatory for all police forces.
'There's so many times that these individuals don't need to go to hospital, they don't need to be arrested. They just need somebody to talk to," said Sgt. Steve Holmes, who heads up a special unit of the HPS designed to intervene in crisis situations involving mental health.
Holmes said many officers in the Hamilton force are specially trained to spot the signs of a mentally ill or distressed person and work to calm them.
With its model becoming successful, HPS have trained neighbouring forces on their methods.
A similar program is also in place in Edmonton.
Retired Moose Jaw Police chief Terry Coleman police need to understand why a person in distress might not respond to their commands, and why an aggressive approach can be disastrous for someone who is mentally ill or impaired.
Tom Stamatakis, president of the Canadian Police Association said governments have failed to put enough mental health resources into the community and added officers are not able to rapidly access person's mental health status or background in a crisis situation.
(Reporting by Asha Bajaj)