Nearly one year has passed since Vancouver police chief Jim Chu stood alongside Mayor Gregor Robertson and called attention to the increasing frequency with which officers are the first point of contact for people with mental-health challenges.
“The answer for someone suffering a mental-health crisis is not a cop with a gun,” Chu said on September 13, 2013. “We need a shift from dealing with the crisis to preventing the crisis from occurring in the first place.”
Since then, the problem has gotten worse, according to VPD statistics provided to the Straight.
During the first six months of 2014, police made 1,470 apprehensions under Section 28 of the Mental Health Act, which permits officers to arrest and detain individuals deemed to have a mental disorder and to pose a threat to themselves or others.
That number represents an average of roughly eight apprehensions every day in Vancouver. It also marks a five-year high for the period of January 1 to June 30.
Section 28 apprehensions between January and June have increased every year since 2010, from 1,145 to 1,240 in 2011, to 1,310 in 2012, and to 1,430 in 2013.
On August 25, Chu spoke at the 2014 general meeting of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police, held in Victoria, where he reiterated his call for higher levels of government to assist police in dealing with people with mental illness.
“People with mental-health issues need the health system, not the justice system,” he said.
Chasing a crisis
Through September 2014 the Straight ran a series of articles exploring how Vancouver cares for the severely mentally ill.
Part one: Vancouver police still seeking help to prevent a mental-health crisis
Part two: Amid a mental-health crisis, Vancouver care providers revisit the debate on institutionalization
Part three: Vancouver service providers fail to get ahead of a mental-health crisis
Part four: B.C. prisons lock mentally-ill offenders in isolation