The head of the RCMP’s Southeast District in B.C. says he wants to add more mental health teams in the region, in the wake of disturbing video of a police wellness check in which a young woman was dragged down a hallway.
“My goal is to greatly expand this needed service at existing locations as it is not always available and introduce it as many of our communities as possible,” Chief Supt. Brad Haugli told a news conference in Kelowna on Thursday.
Mona Wang, a nursing student at the University of British Columbia Okanagan, is suing the RCMP after Const. Lacy Browning conducted a wellness check on her in January.
Video of the incident was recently released and showed the officer dragging a partially dressed Wang down a hallway and stepping on her head.
Browning has been placed on administrative leave.
According to Haugli, there are only two active police and crisis team programs — one in Kelowna, the other in Kamloops.
“I want to commend Interior Health and our detachments for creating the program,” said Haugli, “which has proven to be very effective in the response to mental health calls, de-escalating persons in crisis, and when treatment is necessary, easing their referral into the health-care system to obtain the best possible care.”
Between 2016 and 2019, Haugli said detachments in the Southeast District experienced a 21-per-cent increase for mental-health related calls. There were 11,929 occurrences in 2016, which jumped to 15,099 in 2019.
There were 6,446 related calls in the first five months of this year, he added, including a record 1,456 in May alone.
“I appreciate the commitment required by both Interior Health and us in the RCMP, but it is much needed,” said Haugli.
“If there is an inability to provide a dedicated Interior Health nurse for every call, then I want to implement a real-time information sharing model that provides our members important health information that will ensure a wholesome assessment of the person in crisis before attending the call.
“I want to build a sustained corporate-based infrastructure for all mental-health related calls.”
Haugli continued, saying “I have personally advanced my willingness and strong support directly to the CEO and President of Interior Health, hoping we can quickly come together and begin working on a sustained corporate-based infrastructure for all mental health-related calls.”
At the opening of the press conference, Haugli opened by saying “I want you to know that I’ve heard your concerns. High public confidence is what we strive for.”
He said police are taking all necessary steps to gather the facts on what happened, and that an investigation was immediately mandated after they received video of the incident.
A separate police agency will review the incident, he said, and that their findings will be given to Crown counsel to determine “if a criminal charge should be advanced.”
Haugli also said he’s initiated a public complaint process so that Wang and the RCMP’s Civilian Review and Complaints Commission will be provided the reveiw’s findings.