Mental health advocates are questioning the way the RCMP handled a week–long standoff in eastern Newfoundland — but they said it also showed that the police have learned from past mistakes.
"Sending in a robot is traumatic for a person with mental illness, hosing a house could be traumatic," said George Skinner, with the Newfoundland and Labrador chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association. "You have to engage these people and speaking is the key. What I want to see is health professionals front and centre."
Despite that, Skinner also commended police for arresting Leo Crockwell, 55, unharmed.
Saturday Crockwell was arrested in the outskirts of St. John’s after slipping out of the house in which he had been barricaded in Bay Bulls since Dec. 4 and evading RCMP officers who had surrounded it.
Crockwell was arrested after the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary received a call reporting that he was no longer in Bay Bulls.
Crockwell is now facing 16 charges — including five counts of attempted murder for allegedly shooting at RCMP officers who approached the house during the confrontation.
Crockwell denies he is mentally ill but his sister said he is and that Crockwell had stopped taking the medications prescribed for his condition.
Lawyer and mental health advocate Peter Ralph said the standoff could have ended very differently.
"Given the potential danger of the situation. The police showed a great deal of restraint and it shows we have learned a great deal," said Ralph, the president of the Consumers' Health Awareness Network Newfoundland And Labrador.
"You have to consider [the Crockwell case] a success because no one was killed."
Mental health advocates speaking on CBC Radio Tuesday contrasted what happened to Crockwell with the cases of two other men in the province who died after confrontations with the police more than ten years ago.
Norman Reid of Little Catalina and Darryl Power of Corner Brook were fatally shot by police.
Their deaths led to a provincial inquiry led by Judge Donald Luther.
Luther concluded Newfoundland and Labrador's health, social and justice systems tragically failed Reid and Power, who were killed by police just 51 days apart in 2000. The Inquiry’s 2003 report resulted in changes to the province’s Mental Health Act.
"This case shows that we have come a long way from the Luther Inquiry," said Skinner.