Police in B.C. need more training on how to handle mental health issues, a panel examining people who died after dealing with the cops has found.
In a report released Tuesday, the BC Coroners Service found that “police are a de facto part of the mental health system and that the role of policing should be incorporated into the provincial mental health strategy.”
The panel looked at 127 deaths between 2013 and 2017 that happened within or during the 24 hours after they had police contact.
On average, 25 people died each year and the vast majority – 85 per cent – were male.
The panel found 70 per cent of those involved mental health issues and that half of the 127 people who died were “exhibiting mental health symptoms” during police contact.
More than half of the 127 people struggled with illicit drugs.
The panel recommended the province incorporate police forces into its mental health and addictions strategy.
It said that access to emergency mental health assessment needed to be improved in rural areas, and that people released from police holding needed better information on mental health and crisis resources in their region.
The third recommendation asked the province to develop a B.C. Provincial Policing Standard that would examine and monitor use of force and make sure police officer training was sensitive to mental health issues.