B.C. RCMP leader calls for more mental health nurses in wake of disturbing video
VANCOUVER -- A top B.C. Mountie is calling for a major change in how his force handles mental health calls in the wake of a video that shows one of his officers dragging and then putting her foot on the head of a woman during a wellness check.
Chief Superintendent Brad Haugli, the commander of the RCMP's Southeast District, made a rare public appearance to announce mental health calls are surging and he wants trained mental health nurses on every response to a mental health call.
“It is my goal to greatly expand this needed service at existing locations as it’s not always available, and introduce it to as many of our communities as possible,” Haugli told reporters in Kelowna Thursday morning.
“Personally my vision would be that there would be a nurse accompanying every police officer to every mental health call,” he said.
Haugli also said he is calling on health authorities to make staff available to boost dual police/nurse teams, known as PACT in Kelowna, or Car 87 in Vancouver, and if it’s not available, make sure his police officers have a medical history of the person they are checking on.
“I would say if we had our PACT team there, that situation may have been different,” Haugli said.
The Abbotsford Police Department is now doing a review of how Mounties handled the wellness check in January, where UBC-Okanagan nursing student Mona Wang was recorded on video being dragged by RCMP Const. Lacy Browning.
Right now, PACT only operates from Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wang’s wellness check was called for around 5 p.m. on a Monday.
The video, first reported by CTV News, was obtained in a lawsuit by Wang against the RCMP. Haugli said he would provide crown prosecutors the results of the review.
“When I saw the video I was deeply concerned. And I’m very sorry to Ms Wang for what occurred. If that was my family or friend I would have deep concerns and I would want answers as well,” Haugli said.
Mental health related calls for service in the RCMP’s Southeast District rose 21 per cent over the past four years, Haugli said, to 15,099 last year.
That’s gone even higher during the COVID-19 pandemic, with the month of May recording the highest ever at 279.
Vancouver’s Car 87 program is staffed 21 hours a day, every day. The Surrey RCMP’s program is staffed 12 hours a day, every day. But many cities do not have such a program, even in the Lower Mainland.
The City of Kelowna asked Interior Health to expand the program in 2018. CTV News asked Interior Health last week if the agency intended to follow through on the request. A spokesperson said then they never got the request.
Since then, Interior Health has not answered questions about PACT staffing.
Meanwhile, an online petition calling for the Mountie involved in Wang’s case to be fired and charged now has over 350,000 signatures.
The case comes at a time of extra scrutiny for police in B.C. and whether they are able to de-escalate emergency calls that don’t require violence.