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When no one else answers their phone, the police always do

June 2020

Police deserve better training and benefit of the doubt

In light of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, Ontario, on 27 May 27, there are again calls from mental health advocates that police receive better training when dealing with those in a mental health crisis.

Some will argue that police should be better trained in de-escalation tactics; that police shouldn’t be allowed to attend carrying weapons; that police shouldn’t attend at all because all they are trained to do is kill people.

The last two points are utterly ridiculous, while the first point has merit, just as long as the person in crisis is lucid enough to understand the attempts at de-escalation. A major problem is sometimes people are so mentally ill (through no fault of their own), that they aren’t behaving rationally or are in control of their actions, which is why we can have a not-criminally responsible ruling in a criminal trial.

I do agree that police are ill-trained to be handling a lot of mental health situations, since the bulk of their training is in enforcement of laws and protection of lives; not in psychology or psychiatry. Police have a specific function, but their duties frequently cross with other disciplines because police are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in sufficient numbers (usually) to attend to complaints from the public at a moment’s notice.

While it would be great if we could have mental health crisis teams of trained medical/psychological professionals available 24/7, who can respond to situations instead of the police, is something like that reasonable and affordable?

While it would be great if we could have mental health crisis teams of trained medical/psychological professionals available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in sufficient numbers, who can respond to all the situations that may come through instead of the police, is something like that reasonable and affordable?

“Oh, but we can’t put a price on a life,” you say. The sad truth is that we do that all the time. We ration our medical resources all the time, which is why some people die awaiting medical treatments, or why some will head to other jurisdictions where they can pay out of their own pocket.

A sad truth is that a person in the midst of a mental health crisis can still be very dangerous, especially if they have a weapon. “But it was just a small knife,” some will say! Well, even a small knife can do a shocking amount of damage, including being fatal. For those who doubt that, Google OPP Constable Eric Nystedt.

Constable Nystedt died in 1993 after being stabbed in the left leg by a suspect in a domestic assault; a wound that severed the left femoral artery. He bled to death in about 3 minutes. I must admit that I don’t know the size of the knife, but that’s not the point.

Another truth is that the vast majority of police officers do their best to try to help those in crisis, despite the lack of formal training. Some will draw on their own personal mental health troubles in an attempt to make a connection with the person.

When I was a police officer, I once talked a suicidal person down by telling him I could understand why he might want to kill himself, as I’d contemplated on more than one occasion putting a loaded gun in my mouth and pulling the trigger.

“But you’re a cop,” he blurted out! “Why would you do that?” He and I had a nice conversation after that.

I find it extremely frustrating when some people insist that all police officers are power-tripping bullies who go to work every day just waiting for an excuse to shoot someone. People who think that have probably been watching a few too many American cop shows or movies.

While there are some bad apples, they are in the minority. With the proliferation of cell phone cameras recording police these days, fewer and fewer bad apples are getting away with their behaviour, just as it should be.

As an aside, for those who are suspicious of police investigating police, even if they are former police officers working for the Special Investigations Unit; there are plenty of police officers out there who have no problem charging fellow officers.

The reality is that the vast majority of police officers will only fire their sidearms once a year at a firing range to keep their qualification valid.

I don’t know what the magic thing is that will solve all the problems that can happen when police respond to a mental health crisis situation, but I do know that automatically demonizing the police is not a positive step.

As I said before, police dispatchers are always available to answer your phone calls; whether it’s to report a crime; whether it’s to report your child is missing; whether it’s to report a medical emergency, things that are police issues, or whether it’s to report that your child won’t do their homework; whether it’s to report their sump-pump alarm going off a 2 am; whether it’s to report your pizza was cold when it arrived at your house; whether it’s to report your newspaper was late being delivered; whether it’s to report your landlord won’t replace your broken fridge; or a whole variety of other issues that frankly aren’t police matters, and need to be resolved by other people/agencies that don’t answer their phones 24/7.

By the way, for those who haven’t read my previous columns on this subject, I’m in recovery for PTSD and for alcoholism (over 4 years sober now), and a long way from the days when I had serious suicidal ideation. I thank my higher power every day for giving me the strength to fight on, and now dedicate time to brining awareness to PTSD and mental health issues, especially for emergency service and military personnel.

Read some of my other columns on PTSD and my mental health struggles:

*****************************************************************************

Edited version that appeared in the Toronto Sun, 10 June 2020:

In light of the death of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, there are again calls from mental health advocates that police receive better training when dealing with those in a mental health crisis.

Some will argue that police should be better trained in de-escalation tactics; that police shouldn’t be allowed to attend carrying weapons; that police shouldn’t attend at all because all they are trained to do is kill people.

The last two points are utterly ridiculous, while the first point has merit, just as long as the person in crisis is lucid enough to understand the attempts at de-escalation. A major problem is sometimes people are so mentally ill that they aren’t behaving rationally or are in control of their actions, which is why we can have a not-criminally responsible ruling in a criminal trial.

I do agree that police are ill-trained to be handling a lot of mental health situations, since the bulk of their training is in enforcement of laws and protection of lives; not in psychology or psychiatry. Police are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and in sufficient numbers (usually) to attend to complaints from the public at a moment’s notice, even calls that should be resolved by other people/agencies that don’t answer their phones 24/7.

While it would be great if we could have mental health crisis teams of trained medical/psychological professionals available 24/7, who can respond to situations instead of the police, is something like that reasonable and affordable?

A sad truth is that a person in the midst of a mental health crisis can still be very dangerous, especially if they have a weapon. “But it was just a small knife,” some will say! Well, even a small knife can do a shocking amount of damage.

OPP Constable Eric Nystedt died in 1993 after being stabbed in the left leg by a suspect in a domestic assault; a wound that severed the left femoral artery. He bled to death in about 3 minutes. I must admit that I don’t know the size of the knife, but that’s not the point.

Another truth is that the vast majority of police officers do their best to try to help those in crisis, despite the lack of formal training. Some will draw on their own personal mental health troubles in an attempt to make a connection with the person, and many police officers do have struggles to draw upon.

I find it extremely frustrating when some people insist that all police officers are power-tripping bullies who go to work every day just waiting for an excuse to kill someone. While there are some bad apples, they are in the minority. With the proliferation of cell phone cameras recording police these days, fewer and fewer bad apples are getting away with their behaviour, just as it should be.

As an aside, for those who are suspicious of police investigating police, even if they are former police officers working for the Special Investigations Unit; there are plenty of police officers out there who have no problem charging fellow officers.

I don’t know what the magic thing is that will solve all the problems that can happen when police respond to a mental health crisis situation, but I do know that automatically demonizing the police is not a positive step.

Sources: https://www.davemounsey.com/pc-eric-nystedt.html

Trevor BarrieCome on Toronto Sun. Fact check your authors. I used to work with this guy at 31 Division. He left TPS under an umbrella of shame. He then got hired by some redneck force near Owen Sound. Word has he got fired from there. Shame.Like · Reply · 5d

Mark BarrieYeah, and I remember you too “Trevor”. You’ve got a lot of nerve posting that. The only shame is from having known you. You’re the disgrace and thankfully TPS finally realized that too. Still feeling a little butt-hurt?

Reidy ReidyIf your comment about power over life and death were true then no police Officer would ever be charged with murder or manslaughter. It’s just not true.Like · Reply · 1w

Gord MimmsThe comment I heard on NewsTalk1010 was the first one that made real sense to me. I police officer should have the eductional equivalence of say a Master degree. They have power over life and death. Have great repsonsiblity. In other fields dealing with the public we demand a high level of education and training. Wh not for someone who wants to become an officer?Like · Reply · 1w

Steve McDonnellThe day is coming when the police will refuse to follow orders and protocals and I for one wouldn’t blame them in the least. The police is not the military. A soldier cannot refuse a lawful order. A policeman, oops sorry police officer, is a civilian and he/she can.Like · Reply · 1w

Don MillerBetter training…ya think? Benefit of the doubt…not a chance. It is that reason alone cops parade around like they are above the law.Like · Reply · 1w

Rick Fawcett“911”. “Yes someone has broken into my house and shot my dog. I think they are still here. What should I do?” Don’t worry Miss we have a social worker on their way to ask him about his childhood. Please just sit tight all will be fine. We’re sure once he understands the root cause of his actions the situation will solve itself.”Like · Reply · 1 · 1w  · Edited

George LetcherLets say you are right with the teams, all violent mental health and violent domestic calls go through 911. Currently the police respond ahead of the Paramedics and Firefighters to ensure scene safety. Once the scene is considered safe and maintained from the usual 2 officers, (these calls can be extremely dangerous) up to 4 firefighters and 2 Paramedics enter the room for assessment, treatment and transport to a hospital. Now we add say 2 members of a mental health crisis team into the mix as well. There could potentially be 10 people in a room for one person. Each policeman has a vehicle, F…See MoreLike · Reply · 1w

Reidy ReidyI believe many police would welcome a Mental Health Crisis Team to take charge of responding to all mental health calls. Police officers are not well enough trained for this nor can they be. Same for a Domestic Violence Response Team. Over the years police have been lumped with these, and many other “services” that have nothing to do with law enforcement.

At the end of the day the community will get the Police Service they want, they just have to be prepared to live with it when they change their mind.Like · Reply · 2 · 1w

George LetcherMedical psychological professionals work in secure areas usually with the violent mental health person sedated or physically secured in some way. To believe that a Doctor is going to walk into any unsecured violent domestic/mental health issue is not of this world we live in. I do not know of any sane Mental/Physical health professional that has a death wish or wants to be physically assaulted. People are talking about the mental health for the citizens, what about ensuring/mandating reoccuring mental health evaluations for anyone with an authoritiy over another human. The yelling, screaming, …See MoreLike · Reply · 1w

Mark BlackPolice have been conditioned by left-wing boards, in left-wing cities across North America, for over the past 30 years.
Dig deeperLike · Reply · 1w

This article can also be found on the following web sites:

https://qoshe.com/toronto-sun-ca/bruce-forsyth/forsyth-police-deserve-better-training-and-benefit-of-the-doubt/75689023

https://muckrack.com/bruce-forsyth/articles

Twitter Chris D. Lewis@ChrisLewisLLS

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

Permanent link to this article: https://militarybruce.com/when-no-one-else-answers-their-phone-the-police-always-do/

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