Montreal police receive around 140 calls a day involving the homeless or people with mental health issues, and the service needs more help in dealing with these cases, said Montreal police chief Marc Parent.
'A mixed team cannot talk to someone who is in a crisis like that so you have to use our specialized team to come down and control the situation.'- Marc Parent, Montreal police chief
That’s why the police force has created a new crisis intervention unit known by its French acronym, RIC. Its creation is part of a new plan by police to deal with people with mental illnesses crafted after the downtown health and social services agency spent a year working with vulnerable people on the streets.
“Fifteen years ago, it would have been unthinkable for the police and mental health intervention workers to get into the same patrol car to get to an intervention with homeless people,” Jason Champagne of the CSSS Jeanne-Mance told Radio-Canada.
“We worked together to evolve the culture,” he continued.
Champagne and Parent presented their new joint plan on intervention Thursday
“With the intervention of our mixed response teams, we can approach police work in a way that is more integrated with the social fabric of different neighbourhoods,” Parent said.
Move comes after Alain Magloire death
The formation of the RIC crisis intervention team comes just months after Alain Magloire, a newly homeless man in Montreal with mental health issues, was shot dead by police during an intervention.
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Police were called after Magloire smashed a window inside a local business in downtown Montreal with a hammer.
His brother said he had the hammer, as well as other tools, because he volunteered to do renovation work at the Old Brewery Mission.
In situations like these, Parent said specialized officers need to be present.
“A mixed team cannot talk to someone who is in a crisis like that so you have to use our specialized team to come down and control the situation,” he said.
Parent said there will be one specially trained RIC officer in every police station by the end of 2014. These officers will be on the front lines when there is a dangerous situation involving the homeless or people with mental health problems.
“You need to have a safe environment so RIC can be there to control and make sure you can have a safe intervention with the social worker and the health [intervention worker],” Parent said.
The RIC program is in addition to ESUP, or psycho-social emergency support team, and EMRII, a roving unit of five specially trained police officers and four health care workers who help provide long-term assistance to some members of Montreal’s homeless population.
According to the Montreal police, ESUP has made 2,091 interventions since 2012.