Surveillance video showing an RCMP officer dragging a UBC Okanagan nursing student down the hallway during a wellness check has drawn attention to how mental health is handled within the police force, and prompted a former Mountie to speak out.
“Members are struggling. There are no resources,” former Kelowna RCMP officer Chris Williams said.
The 22-year veteran of the RCMP said the force doesn’t offer adequate mental health support to its officers.
“I don’t know how we can expect that if they can’t look after their own members, they can look after and be accountable to the public,” Williams said.
In 2017, Williams spoke with Global News about his PTSD struggles after being shot at twice and said that he expected backlash for speaking to the media.
“There’s already been assertions that there may be a code of conduct against me for speaking to the media,” he told Global News at the time.
On Thursday, Williams said that he was administratively discharged shortly afterward.
“I had a mental health crisis issue not long after that,” he said.
Williams said he is currently fighting his discharge in federal court.
The former corporal showed up at Southeast District RCMP headquarters for last week’s press conference addressing the surveillance video showing Const. Lacy Browning dragging student Mona Wang down the hallway, stepping on her head and pulling her hair.
He asked the chief superintendent how the public can expect full accountability.
“I can tell you that transparency and accountability continue to be the high level piece for this district,” Chief Supt. Brad Haugli responded.
But Williams believes otherwise.
“I’m aware that I’m not a one-off,” he said. “There are other issues that have happened in this district and, in fact, the Kelowna detachment that seem to have been swept under the rug with no public accountability.”
“The RCMP has a very unique way of being able to hide the facts: they hide behind process. They hide behind claims that there’s a civil process in place, ‘we’re not going to comment’,” Williams said.
Williams said he was shocked when he saw how Browning treated Wang in the video, but believes putting the officer on desk duty is appropriate while the matter is investigated.
“Rank-and-file members are overworked. They’re overstressed. They do not have adequate support,” he said. “Resources are an issue, and, unfortunately, members become frustrated and they take shortcuts.”
“And they’re dealing with really difficult calls, day after day, and there is no decompression time,” he added.
Williams said a proper review of the facts is important.
“I don’t think we should jump to conclusions and take someone’s employment away,” he added. “And if there is discipline to be given out, I think that’s appropriate.”
“The public should though realize that the men and women of the RCMP are for the most part out there trying to do the right thing,” Williams said. “They are not out there trying to cause harm to people.”
RCMP said they launched a five-year mental health strategy in 2014 and are committed to following the mental health commission of Canada’s voluntary standards for psychological health and safety in the workplace.