CALGARY (CITYNEWS) – A Calgary group wants #defundCPS to start trending on social media, and believes the money would be better spent on social services and mental health programs.
This as Canadians continue to die during police mental health and wellness checks.
Chad Haggarty used to be an RCMP officer and is now a Student-at-Law and board member of the Canadian Cultural Mosaic Foundation (CCMF). He says people cannot continue to die during the checks.
“The training that police officers receive is not sufficient to deal with the myriad of mental health issues that they’re confronted by, and that’s not necessarily an issue with the individual police officer. It’s an issue with the societal response to it,” said Haggarty.
“Police officers are the defacto mental health worker, defacto social worker, and the reality is they’re often poorly equipped to deal with what confronts them.”
When answering questions about defunding police last month, Calgary’s police chief echoed the sentiment, that the Calgary Police Service (CPS) has become the defacto social service. His force receives over $400 million a year.
CCMF argues CPS tops the city’s expenses at 10 times more funding than affordable housing and social services.
“The issues involving homeless people or people in distress, often the DOAP team will get the first call, the problem is the DOAP team is as an example is ridiculously underfunded, their continuation is tenuous but organizations like that or initiatives like that are a perfect framework for how mental health can be take out of the hands of police,” explained Haggarty.
Alberta Health Services data shows a steady decrease in Form 10s to mental health call centres and an increase in calls since 2018 when it was rolled out. Form 10s involve apprehending people and transferring them to hospital under the mental health act. CPS has said officers can spend hours in ER wait rooms for these incidents.
The call to defund police is ringing across North America, but advocates hope the topic actually results in more than just what’s trending.
“In Canada in the last two months I think we’ve had eight black, indigenous, or other persons of colour killed by police on mental health calls or what are referred to as wellness calls, that can’t continue,” said Haggarty.