Interior RCMP brass call for more mental health workers to help police in light of video - InfoNews

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Interior RCMP brass call for more mental health workers to help police in light of video

RCMP Southeast Division Chief Supt. Brad Haugli.
July 02, 2020 - 11:15 AM

In a rare appearance before the media, Chief Supt. Brad Haugli said he would prefer to see RCMP officers only serve as backup resources on mental health calls, rather than being the primary resource.

The head of the RCMP’s Southeast Division, which covers much of the Southern Interior of B.C., made the comments during what he admitted was only his fourth or fifth press conference in his five years as top cop.

He called the session in response to the recent video of UBCO student Mona Wang being dragged down a hallway by an RCMP officer who was responding to a mental health call.

“Mental health calls should be assessed by trained mental health workers,” Haugli said. “We would be a support mechanism if they felt there was jeopardy to themselves or others."

Right now there are only two teams where RCMP officers work with mental health workers to respond to such calls, one in Kamloops and one in Kelowna. Each only has one RCMP member.

“My goal is to greatly expand this needed service at existing locations — and it is not always available — and introduce it to as many communities as possible,” Haugli said. “If there is an inability to provide a dedicated Interior Health nurse for every call then I want to implement a real time information sharing model that provides our members important health information that will ensure the wholesome assessment of the person in crisis before attending the call.”

He has contacted Interior Health CEO and President Susan Brown to talk about a coordinated approach to making this happen.

It took almost two weeks since the video became public for him to call the press conference because, in part, he wanted to compile statistics on the increasing number of mental health calls his members respond to.

In 2016, there were 11,929 such calls in the district. That climbed 21 per cent in 2019 to 15,099. This year, due in part to COVID-19, there have already been 6,446 calls with 1,456 in May alone. Those calls often result in apprehensions under the Mental Health Act, which have also increased. In 2016, 2,220 people were apprehended and that rose 14 per cent in 2019 to 2,568.

"There have already been 1227 apprehensions in the first five months with again the month of May recording the highest monthly number with 279," he said.

He said he was deeply concerned when he first saw the video and took immediate action to place the officer involved on administrative duty. She was not suspended because he was only following standard procedures, he said.

The Abbotsford police will conduct an independent investigation into the incident. Haugli expects them to report to Crown Counsel by mid-July.

RCMP officers receive six months training before taking on the job, he said. But he did not know how much of that included training on dealing with mental health issues. The officers on the special teams do not receive specialized training. They simply work with trained nurses.

READ MORE: iN VIDEO: RCMP investigating Kelowna officer caught on video dragging nursing student

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