Police must reach out to mentally ill, says new Chief Bryan Larkin
Waterloo Region's incoming police chief thinks there's a lot more work to be done when it comes to police officers being trained to deal with people who have mental illnesses.
That's in response to a report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada, tabled at the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police conference Wednesday.
The landscape is changing.- Bryan Larkin, new Waterloo Regional Police Service chief
The report said while there has been some progress by police forces in recent years, there hasn't been enough consultation with people living with mental illness.
Bryan Larkin, who begins his new job as Waterloo Regional police chief next week, has read the report, and agrees.
"[We need to] involve those that are in the mental health profession and those who are suffering from mental illness ... involve them in the discussion," he said.
But Larkin said finding a solution isn't going to happen overnight. Part of the challenge is that there are a lot more mental illness cases today than ever before.
"We're seeing mental health from all ages, from youth to young adults to teenagers, right through to elders," he said. "[There are] different opportunities to address those issues, to better understand it."
Focus on de-escalation
Sixteen key recommendations are outlined in the report, mainly dealing with education and training of police officers to improve their interactions with people with mental health issues.
The recommendations include the implementation of provincial policing standards to ensure a unified level of training for all police personnel regardless of local jurisdiction.
In particular many police academies in Canada need to focus more on de-escalation rather than using force, the report said.
Larkin said the regional police force is already acting.
"The landscape is changing," he said. "But, I think the bonus we have in Waterloo is we're renowned for really mobilizing communities and working with our community partners."
Late last year, the Waterloo Regional Police teamed up with mental health experts and psychiatric nurses to help respond to mental health calls. Larkin said he'll also be looking into getting those who have mental illnesses involved as well.