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VPD officers were not negligent in case where man jumped from bridge, IIO finds

The union representing Vancouver's police officers says it has reached a tentative labour agreement with the city that, if passed, will see members become Canada's highest-paid officers. Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters in Vancouver, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck The union representing Vancouver's police officers says it has reached a tentative labour agreement with the city that, if passed, will see members become Canada's highest-paid officers. Police cars are seen parked outside Vancouver Police Department headquarters in Vancouver, on Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
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Two Vancouver police officers who met with a man shortly before he jumped off of the Granville Street Bridge and was critically injured "performed their duties appropriately," according to B.C.'s police watchdog.

The Independent Investigations Office released its report on the 2023 incident Thursday, finding no reasonable grounds to believe the involved officers committed any offence.

On the evening of Nov. 23, the report said, officers were dispatched to a pizza place for a "check wellbeing" call. A bystander had seen the man, referred to as the affected person or "AP" in the report, and taken AP to the restaurant after finding him in distress on the bridge.

"The officers engaged in conversation with AP, and in due course concluded that he was not apprehendable under the Mental Health Act as a person apparently suffering from a mental disorder and in danger of harming himself," Sandra Hentzen, the IIO's interim chief civilian director, wrote.

Drawing on the statement of the bystander, notes from the officers involved, and statements from witness officers, the IIO found that AP was "described as calm and happy, denying any further suicidal thoughts and appearing to be 'on the right track,' planning to take his medications and attend for counselling regularly."

AP did tell the officers that he had thought about jumping from the bridge, but there was no evidence that he was in obvious or immediate distress, the IIO report said, noting that AP left the pizza place and said he was taking the bus to his mother's.

Thirty minutes later, however, AP was seen on the bridge – looking over the edge – by two different police officers who were driving by.

"Concerned for his wellbeing, they manoeuvred around to turn back and check on him as quickly as they could, but he had disappeared," Hentzen wrote.

The man was determined to be AP, and was taken away by paramedics in critical condition.

The IIO had to determine whether the officers who spoke to AP had been negligent or if they had met their duty of care, the report explained. In this case, that standard was to assess whether or not it would be "appropriate" to apprehend AP under the Mental Health Act. Doing so would not have been reasonable in the circumstances, the IIO found.

"In fact, it would have been unreasonable for them to apprehend him after their inquiries, and doing so might even have amounted in law to an assault," the IIO said.

"It will never be known if AP was simply misleading the officers with a false display of calm and positivity, or if he was truthful with them, his mood darkening again after he left them."

Ultimately, the evidence led the IIO to determine that the officers were not responsible for AP's "unfortunate decision."

Editor’s note: If you or anyone you know is struggling with mental health, there are a number of ways to get help, including by calling Talk Suicide Canada at 1-833-456-4566. A list of local resources is also available here.

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