Police Intervention and Wellness Checks
Date: July 22, 2020
A Hill Times article published on July 22, 2020, shows there has been an increase in RCMP mental health and wellness call responses, and highlighting the need for better data to be available.
- It is critically important for Canadians to feel protected by the police, and the RCMP is dedicated to establishing, maintaining and building relationships with communities and stakeholders.
- We recognize there are challenges in terms of the data that is available and the desire for greater data availability, including in relation to ‘wellness check’ occurrences.
- The RCMP will continue to explore further improvements to overcome the numerous challenges, which include varying legislation across jurisdictions, differences in how occurrences are reported, recorded and retained, as well as the RCMP being relied upon to attend such calls, including mental health-related calls.
- Most occurrences can be resolved through dialogue, which is why crisis intervention and de-escalation training is mandatory for all RCMP officers. However, there are circumstances when police intervention may be necessary to protect the individual or others.
- The RCMP will use only the level of intervention reasonable and necessary, in the context of a careful risk assessment that accounts for the likelihood and extent of potential injury and damage to property, to ensure the safety of all citizens and to maintain peace, order and security.
Police officers have a critical role to play when responding and interacting with people living with mental health problems and illnesses. Police officers are not medical professionals and cannot diagnose individuals. However, it is important for the police to have an understanding of mental health illnesses, including signs and symptoms of distress, in order to conduct effective risk assessments and de-escalate a mental health crisis, wherever it is tactically feasible.
The data shows an increase in mental health-related occurrences responded to by the RCMP over the past five years. This increase is consistent across all RCMP contract policing jurisdictions. There are a number of reasons for this, including more awareness and understanding by all Canadians, including police officers, of mental health illnesses. It could also be representative of an increasing population. The RCMP cautions against drawing conclusions based on an analysis of raw data alone.
The RCMP uses Records Management Systems (RMS) to capture occurrences. The Police Reporting and Occurrence System (PROS) is used in all RCMP divisions except British Columbia (BC) and the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRC). In BC (E Division), the RCMP uses the Police Records Information Management Environment (PRIME), and in the HRC — where the RCMP is integrated with the Halifax Regional Police — the RCMP uses VERSADEX. PROS, PRIME, and VERSADEX have unique methodology for counting occurrences, which makes it difficult to compare data between them. For example, “Wellbeing Check” occurrences are available in PROS, but have only been available in PRIME since January 2020.
This data does not represent all RCMP interactions with individuals suffering from mental illness. The language used by complainants, witnesses, family members, or the subject of the complaint varies. For these reasons, not all incidences of mental health-related calls for service may be captured in the RMS as mental health-related. Wellbeing checks could include requests to physically confirm the wellbeing of a loved one who is not responding or unreachable. All calls for service, whether known to be mental health-related or not, are responded with the same training and caution.
Mental health legislation is established by provinces and territories (P/T). Laws, regulations, procedures and reporting requirements vary across jurisdictions. Data purging time frames for mental health-related occurrences also differ depending on P/T rules. The RCMP’s national Business Intelligence Unit is able to pull certain data from the PROS historical database, even though the file details may have been purged. The RCMP’s divisional business intelligence units do not have access to this historical database.
The RCMP provides frontline (contract) policing services to all provinces and territories, except Ontario and Quebec. The data includes mental health-related occurrences in Ontario and Quebec, including the National Capital Region (NCR), where the RCMP has a federal policing mandate. Additionally, the RCMP in the NCR has a mandate that includes traffic and patrols on federal routes and properties.
Police Intervention Data
To enhance accountability and transparency, in 2010, the RCMP has strengthened its police intervention reporting requirements to include all intervention options. This information is captured in a Subject Behaviour / Officer Response (SB/OR) report. The SB/OR reporting application is very robust and was created to provide RCMP officers with a tool to assist them in properly articulating the circumstances in which police intervention was used. An SB/OR report captures occurrence information, environment, situational factors, what substances and weapons were present, a description of the subject’s behaviour and the officer’s corresponding response, injuries, if any, to the subject and the officer, and a short description of how the event unfolded. An SB/OR report also captures whether the subject was perceived to be emotionally disturbed and the type of occurrence (e.g., Mental Health Act). An SB/OR report is mandatory for all members who apply/display: (1) physical control hard, intermediate weapons, firearms, police service dog, specialty munitions and/or other (weapon of opportunity); and, (2) physical control soft resulting in an injury to the subject, member, or other person.
All SB/OR reports are reviewed at the supervisory level and further review and oversight is provided at the National and divisional levels where the incident occurred. An SB/OR report provides additional context around incidents where police intervention is used and provides statistical data on the frequency of police intervention encounters compared to overall calls for service. SB/OR data allows for evidence-based decision making for the development of policy, training and equipment.
Crisis intervention and De-escalation (CID) Training
Training and development of all officers starts with the Cadet Training Program (CTP) at the RCMP Academy, Depot Division, and continues throughout their RCMP career on an ongoing basis.
The RCMP has strengthened CID training for all its officers.
Since 2016, an online training course on CID has been mandatory for all RCMP officers. The purpose of the course is to ensure that RCMP officers will be able to use CID techniques, when tactically feasible, to effectively manage these situations, including incidents involving a mental health crisis. The course includes a module on some major mental health disorders and their observable behaviours, which can assist police officers in tailoring their approach to the person in crisis. The course takes approximately three hours and is available through the RCMP’s E-learning portal. CID training is now being incorporated into annual Incident Management Intervention Model (IMIM) training. Further, scenarios involving CID training are in place as a part of regular operational skills maintenance training.
An online Suicide Prevention and Awareness course is available to all employees on the RCMP Intranet. It teaches the factors associated with suicide, crisis intervention techniques, and the importance of seeking helping, or supporting others to do so, when they are living with mental health issues that are having a negative impact on their well-being.
In addition, the two-day Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training is mandatory for employees who are in positions where they are likely to encounter individuals living with serious mental stress.
Police Intervention Training and Procedures
The RCMP recognizes that even in situations where crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques can be used, police intervention may still be required. The IMIM is the framework used by RCMP officers to assess and manage risk in all encounters with the public, whether it is verbal de-escalation, or the use of an intervention option.
IMIM training is introduced in the second week at Depot, and then integrated into all other relevant aspects of training for the remaining 24 weeks. After leaving Depot, annual IMIM re-certification training is mandatory for all regular members. The IMIM training helps officers continually assess risk, based on the totality of the situation and considering subject behaviour(s), situational factors, tactical considerations and the officer’s perceptions. The circular representation of the graphic is designed to reflect the rapidly evolving and dynamic nature of police work. Unlike a continuum or linear pathway, the IMIM does not lead the officer through a stepped progression of intervention options. The officer instead selects an appropriate option to control the situation, based on their individual risk assessment.
The RCMP responds to an average of 2.8 million calls for service each year. Applications of intervention account for one in every 1,064 RCMP calls for service, or 0.1 per cent. That means that 99.9 per cent of RCMP occurrences are resolved naturally or with communication/de-escalation.
Prepared by: Konrad Roberts, Strategic Policy, Contract and Indigenous Policing, RCMP; 343-542 2628
Approved by: Brian Brennan, Deputy Commissioner, Contract and Indigenous Policing, RCMP; 613-843-4632
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