Police officers to get one day of mental health training; critics argue it's not enough
All officers in the Montreal police force are set to receive more training to deal with people facing a mental health crisis.
The new plan, which was outlined at city hall Tuesday, will see every officer receive a day of training over the next three years. It comes after several deaths of civilians in crisis in the last five years
Critics are saying the new training is not enough to address the issues.
“The fact is, let’s say I receive one day of training within two or three years, like six months later, I can’t remember everything that was said. So how am I supposed to deal, on a daily basis, with people in crisis?” said Emmanuel Cree, an outreach worker with community group Projet Rezo.
By comparison, the Toronto police force provides three days of training for dealing with mental health crises.
Montreal police say they have training in these matters, including de-escalation training, in the CEGEP program that trains them to become officers – explaining that the mental health training needs to be viewed as additional to that.
“It’s a great step forward, or you can sit down and complain until next week,” said Montreal police Insp. Andre Durocher. “When you look at all the mandatory days of training the police officers have in a year, who knows, there may come a day when there won’t be enough days in a calendar year to fit all the training in.”
Training might not be at the heart of the issue, though, said Cree, adding that in a crisis situation in which an officer's life is threatened, the risk that that officer will panic and resort to using his gun if threatened is an ever-present reality.
Some are suggesting that the only real solution to accidental shootings is not having all patrol officers carry weapons like in many other cities.
Montreal police Insp. Andre Durocher said he doesn’t agree with that idea.
“When I leave for work in the morning, I like to come back at night alive. The firearm is a last resort. It’s unfortunate whenever it has to be used, but it has to be there,” he said. “Don’t forget, we have firearms not only to protect ourselves but to protect other citizens too… Unfortunately, there are always situations where you feel your life is threatened or someone else’s life is threatened where you feel you have to resort to that.”
Montreal police receive about 30,000 calls a year involving someone in crisis.