Montreal shooting raises familiar questions about police training
A day after a man was fatally shot during a police operation in the city’s east end, questions are once again being raised about how well officers are trained to deal with the mentally ill.
Montreal police arrived at 63-year-old Andre Benjamin’s Ontario St. apartment Monday morning responding to a psychological distress call. The SQ confirmed Benjamin confronted police with a sharp weapon and that during the intervention, he was hit by a stun gun and at least one bullet.
Neighbours say everything happened very quickly. They heard police banging on the door early monday morning, and within seconds, they heard three gun shots.
Retired officer Alain Gelly, who now trains police recruits, says police are increasingly called to scenes where the expertise of a social worker is needed, and that police forces are being encouraged to work with social workers in order to better understand how to respond to those calls.
But police won’t send a social worker into a situation that could be dangerous. And when officers are faced with danger, they are taught to react quickly.
“We only have a few seconds to make a decision. In that case, we've been trained to always neutralize the opposition,” he said.
But Pierre Magloire, whose brother Alain was fatally shot by police last year, says perhaps the opposite should be true.
“They should wait, they should take their time, if it takes an hour or two they should take it. It's a human being,” he said.
Magloire says he believes officers need to know when to step back.
“Mentally ill people have to trust you. That's the first thing – they have to trust you that you are not there to hurt them. And when they are in crisis the whole world is against them,” he said.
Many ask why police don’t aim for the arm or leg instead of the chest, but Gelly said that’s not the best option.
“You don't take the chance to shoot in the arm or leg, because you don't know what will happen if you miss the target,” he said.
While people on both sides of the debate agree police have received more training on dealing with people who are mentally ill, the question remains – how much is enough?