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B.C. cops aren’t doctors: minister

By Michael Mui, 24 Hours Vancouver

Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. (REUTERS)

Federal Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. (REUTERS)

Now they got the training that is broad, but they are not especially trained with dealing with those who have mental health issues


— Steven Blaney, Public Safety Minister

As a joint medical-and-police report recommends mental health crisis training for law enforcement across Canada, the country’s public safety minister says provincial governments must step up so police aren’t acting as doctors.

Sixteen recommendations were made in the TEMPO: Police Interactions report published by the Mental Health Commission of Canada and supported by the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police.

The list covers everything from how to get around stigma that results in discrimination against the mentally ill to the importance of information sharing with health authorities when dealing with cases.

For example, according to the report, such training would teach police that standard disarming or calming tactics “might have the opposite effect on a person experiencing a mental health crisis.”

CACP president Chief Clive Weighill said many forces are “well on their way” to implementing some of the recommendations.

“When our officers have our yearly mandatory firearms training, it isn’t just going out to the range,” he said.

“Not only are they trained on the safe use of their firearm, we talk about de-escalation tactics, how to deal with mental health issues, how to diffuse situations — we can fit a lot of this training in.”

Dr. Terry Coleman, who co-authored the report, said police aren’t expected to be doctors but should be able to recognize mental health behaviour.

“We’d all agree that certainly in many communities there’s a need for more and more accessible mental health community programming and services … but that’s outside the scope of the police being able to do much about that,” he said.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney said mental health is the “explicit responsibility of provinces.”

“As important as police training in mental health matters is, police are not doctors and should never be expected to act as such,” he said.

“We’ll look to provincial partners to provide the necessary intervention and assistance for the mentally ill before they encounter the criminal justice system — I cannot emphasize this point more strongly.”


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