White Rock’s top cop is calling for a better system for dealing with people whose criminal activities are clearly tied to mental health and substance use.
Following the arrest earlier this month of a woman who has been reported to police more than 65 times this year alone, Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls said a “healthcare led intervention model” would better-serve not only such individuals, but the community as a whole.
“In my perspective, it would be more beneficial to have a specialized health-centred response that actually incorporates the police only in limited circumstances,” Pauls told Peace Arch News Thursday (Aug. 13).
Pauls said police in White Rock on a daily basis encounter people who would benefit from an intervention outside of the justice system.
The individuals are brought to the detachment’s attention, however, “because there’s no system in place for you to call mental health, or health care or addiction services, or the people that deal with homelessness, for them to come out and respond to a call from the community.
“It falls upon the police,” Pauls said.
He said the aforementioned case – involving a middle-aged Surrey woman – shows there are gaps that need to be addressed, and that there is merit for a different model.
Pauls said police responding to a report of a person suspected of casing cars in uptown White Rock shortly after midnight on Aug. 11 located a woman who had an arrest warrant for property-crime offences. She had been arrested five times previously on the same warrant for continually failing to appear in court, a news release notes.
After the fifth arrest, officers made arrangements to drive the woman to court the next morning, however, “she did not take police up on the offer resulting in another warrant.”
“Having personally spoken to her, it is clear that mental health and substance use has contributed to her involvement with the criminal justice system,” Pauls said in the release.
“This individual needs an intervention outside of the justice system, one with a healthcare focus.”
Pauls told PAN that chronic social offenders are a challenge because they typically don’t volunteer themselves to get help, and the legal system is not best-equipped to address the root causes of a person’s behaviour.
While he couldn’t immediately say exactly what a new model might look like, Pauls said in White Rock, efforts are underway to examine the issue more closely.
“We will be conducting a review of our wellness checks, mental health calls, and interactions with homeless people to better understand why the police are taking on the responsibility of social and health issues that likely should be responded to by other specialized service providers.”