In wake of a number of high-profile incidents by police, the independent watchdog for the Canadian Mounties says it has concerns about “unreasonable use of force” during wellness checks and related calls.
The chair of the Civilian Review and Complaints Commission Michelaine Lahaie said in a statement issued Tuesday (July 21) that she has consistently highlights concerns about police adopting a “command and control” approach, which she called an authoritative style of dealing with a non‑compliant person.
“The commission’s reports have repeatedly found that this ‘command and control’ approach has led to the RCMP’s unreasonable use of force in apprehending persons in crisis,” Lahaie continued.
The commission, created in 1988 as part of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act, is an independent Canadian government agency which examines complaints of improper on-duty conduct by RCMP officers.
Over the past five years the commission has received roughly 10,000 complaints, and has issued 14 reports concerning individual cases where the RCMP’s actions concerning a wellness check or person in crisis was “unreasonable.”
In 2016, the commission recommended a review of RCMP policies and training around the use of force. Earlier this year, Lahaie recommended RCMP commissioner Brenda Lucki work with individual provinces and territories to create appropriate health care-led response options.
“The commission understands that sometimes a police response to a person in crisis will be necessary. For instance, where there is concurrent criminality or a clear risk to public safety,” Lahaie said.
“In that sense, the RCMP’s role is an important one, but not the only one. Mental health professionals should be leading the response, with police providing support as necessary.”
Lucki has not yet responded to the most recent report.
In recent months, police-involved wellness checks have sparked debate nationwide with many calling for ample police reform.
This includes the death of B.C. Indigenous woman Chantel Moore, who was shot and killed by police in Edmundston, N.B., as well as the criminal investigation into a Kelowna RCMP officer after a video was released showing the officer dragging nursing student Mona Wang down a hallway in January. A lawsuit has also been filed in that incident.
Black Press Media has reached out to the RCMP for comment.
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