Police chiefs embrace health-led response to dealing with people in mental crisis


OTTAWA — Police chiefs say they support closer collaboration with crisis workers to help prevent tragedies when their officers confront people dealing with mental health issues.

Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah says sending two police officers to such calls allows only the option of transporting the person in need to a hospital.

He told MPs on the House of Commons public safety committee today that dispatching an officer and a crisis worker, on the other hand, allows the response team to get a better sense of what will help the person.

Waterloo Regional Police Service Chief Bryan Larkin says law enforcement agencies are criminalizing homelessness, addiction and other issues that should be dealt with in other ways through a model focused on public health.

Larkin, who is on the drug advisory committee of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, points to the association’s recent call for the decriminalization of personal drug use as an example of a constructive approach.

The public safety committee is studying systemic racism in Canadian policing in response to widespread concern over how police treat Black and Indigenous people.