Police need more training to deal with street people, says report

Cops need more “harm reduction” training on how to deal with mental health and addictions common among street people

Although there are some Victoria cops who go out of their way to help street people, most police patrolling city streets don’t.

And it is not their fault, according to a preliminary report on Policing, the criminal justice system, and poverty, by the Vancouver Island Public Interest Research Group study.

Cops need more “harm reduction” training on how to deal with mental health and addictions common among street people and find ways combat their “discriminatory” attitudes against them, says a report overview presented to the Victoria Police Board last week by Tamara Herman, VIPIRG research coordinator.

The small amount of harm reduction training currently given the police isn’t enough to be effective, said Herman who oversaw the project that interviewed more than 100 “street involved people” by a 10-member research team including individuals with street life experience.

The aim of the research was to provide a snap shot of how policing in public places and the criminal justice influence the lives of “street involved people,” she said.

Street involved people are those who “experience fluctuating living situations that include shelters, couch-surfing, sleeping on the streets, and in supportive housing at various points of time.”

Although 38 percent of the street people said they had “helpful interactions with police,” almost all the rest said opposite, she said.

Those who felt they have been helped by cops cited personal examples of what they meant: “They watch for my safety while working, ensure I’m okay if high, help me get off the street” and “They drove me to a hospital last night and were really nice” and “They know I am handicapped. Once I passed out and they took me home.”

Most of personal contacts street people said they had with police was either when they were being searched, often because police thought they were high or intoxicated, telling them to move off of public property, or, more than one-third of the time, because they were panhandling, the preliminary report says.

About five per cent of the time their contact was police checking with them to make sure they were okay.

Despite the occasional praise, only three per cent of street people have confidence in the police, the preliminary report said. Forty one per cent said they didn’t have much confidence in the cops with 32 per cent saying they had “no confidence at all.”

Asked whether they thought the cops did a good job protecting them, only six per cent said yes compared to other studies which show 58 percent of the general public thinks police are good at their job.

Almost half of street people – 47 per cent – thought the cops treated them poorly.

Just over a quarter of the street people interviewed conceded the police did an “average job” in protecting them, compared to 42 per cent of the rest of the public.

The final report is expected to be completed and released in the next three or four weeks.



Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rockfall closes Finlayson Arm Road and West Shore Parkway on Friday (March 5) afternoon. (Twitter/BC Transportation)
Malahat closed due to rockfall

Section of Trans-Canada Highway was scheduled for intermittent closures today for rock scaling work

The Tsartlip First Nation was outraged after Green MLA Adam Olsen revealed on social media that the community had been experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak – a fact the First Nation had chosen to keep private to avoid racist backlash as experienced by the Cowichan Tribes when an outbreak was declared there in January. (Black Press Media file photo)
Tsartlip First Nation ‘outraged’ after Green MLA revealed COVID-19 outbreak

Chief shares concerns about racist backlash, MLA Adam Olsen apologizes

E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar is closing its doors until further notice after sexual assault allegations against an employee surfaced on social media. (Google Streetview)
Sexual assault allegations temporarily closing a second Victoria restaurant

Social media posts accuse an E:Ne Raw Food and Sake Bar employee of sexual assault

Valerie St. John and Heather Forbes hold up paintings by Sheryl Fisher that were auctioned off at the Bridges for Women Society’s 10th Annual International Women’s Day luncheon. (Black Press Media file photo)
Victoria event raising funds to support women facing violence, trauma

Bridges for Women Society will host its 11th annual International Women’s Day event online this year

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C. on the COVID-19 situation. (B.C. government)
Dr. Bonnie Henry predicts a ‘post-pandemic world’ for B.C. this summer

‘Extending this second dose provides very high real-world protection to more people, sooner’

The Netflix logo on an iPhone. B.C. delayed imposing sales tax on digital services and sweetened carbonated beverages as part of its response to COVID-19. Those taxes take effect April 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Matt Rourke
B.C. applies 7% sales tax on streaming, vaping, sweet drinks April 1

Measures from 2020 budget were delayed due to COVID-19

A lawyer wears a face mask and gloves to curb the spread of COVID-19 while waiting to enter B.C. Supreme Court, in Vancouver, B.C., Friday, Aug. 28, 2020. British Columbia’s highest court has sided with the land owner in a dispute over public access to public land. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. high court finds in favour of large landowner in fight over access to pair of lakes

The Nicola Valley Fish and Game Club launched legal action after the cattle company blocked road and trail access

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Friday, March 5, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau holds firm on premiers’ health-care funding demands, COVID-19 aid comes first

Premiers argue that the current amount doesn’t keep pace with yearly cost increases of about five per cent

Free Reformed Church is seen as people attend service, in Chilliwack, B.C., on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021. Lawyers for the British Columbia government and the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms are back in B.C. Supreme Court today, squaring off over the legality of COVID-19 rules that prohibit in-person religious services. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. top doctor has power to restrict access to a place during health hazard: lawyer

Under B.C.’s Public Health Act, Jacqueline Hughes says, Henry can restrict or prevent entry to a place

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
B.C. dentists and bus drivers want newly-approved Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine

BC Dental Association says dentists and their teams cannot treat patients remotely

Surrey Pretrial in Newton. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. transgender inmate to get human rights hearing after being held in mostly male jail

B.C. Human Rights Tribunal member Amber Prince on March 3 dismissed the pretrial’s application to have Makayla Sandve’s complaint dismissed

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is calling for teachers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 by summer. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Why it’s ‘urgent’ B.C. teachers get vaccinated from COVID-19 before summer

President Teri Mooring says not enough is being done to prevent virus transmission in schools

FILE - In this Jan. 18, 2014, file photo, endangered orcas from the J pod swim in Puget Sound west of Seattle, as seen from a federal research vessel that has been tracking the whales. A new study from federal researchers provides the most detailed look yet at what the Pacific Northwest's endangered orcas eat. Scientists with the NOAA Fisheries Northwest Fisheries Science Center spent years collecting fecal samples from the whales as well as scales from the fish they devoured. They say their data reaffirm the central importance of Chinook salmon to the whales. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)
Study reinforces importance of Chinook to Pacific Northwest orcas

Data confirms how central the big salmon are to the orca’s diet year-round

Most Read