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

Power outage leaves more than 1,500 Sidney residents in the dark Sunday

BC Hydro customers without power since 7:57 a.m. on Feb. 16

Habitat for Humanity seeks applicants for 11 new homes on the Saanich Peninsula

Successful applicants will help build their new homes and receive an affordable mortgage

Next Pacific Opera production tells a refugee’s airport tale

Flight is spicy and complex, with a scintillating score by Jonathan Dove

Registration opens March 1 for BC 55+ Games in Richmond

2020 55+ Games have been officially scheduled for Sept. 15 to 19

Dunsmuir Middle School works with students following in-school protest over cell phone policy

Pupil said he wants students to be included in decisions that impact them

VIDEO: Minister reports ‘modest progress’ after blockade talks with First Nation

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say Coastal GasLink does not have authority to go through their lands

Canadian nurses’ unions warn national standards for coronavirus protection too low

President says safety protocols nationwide are inadequate compared to those in Ontario and other countries

Murder of sex worker exposes Canada’s hypocrisy on prostitution: advocate

A 2014 law made purchasing sex or benefiting from the selling of sex illegal

Wet’suwet’en return to northern B.C. forest road pipeline workers move through: First Nation

Opponents of a pipeline who support the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have reoccupied camps at centre of arrests

Over a dozen birds found mysteriously dead on rural B.C road

Ministry of Agriculture notified of the strange occurrence on No. 4 Road in Abbotsford

B.C. men arrested after theft of heavy equipment leads to highway blockade

One man surrendered to police while the other was taken into custody the next morning, RCMP say

Forestry workers vote for new agreement, ending 8-month strike on Vancouver Island

Wage increases, higher premiums and contract language part of new agreement

PHOTOS: Trans Mountain hosts mock oil spill response practice in Kamloops

Practice comes after an excavator accidentally struck the pipeline near Jacko Lake in mid-February

Most Read