‘Revolving door of enforcement is inadequate:’ Kelowna RCMP on arrest of man with mental health issues

Kelowna RCMP Supt. Kara Triance. Global News

Kelowna RCMP are calling attention to the need for better mental health and addiction services after a man was arrested following a report that he was waving a hammer at passersby.

RCMP said in a Monday press release that the man was being confrontational on the waterfront walkway at the foot of Bernard Street at around 11:30 a.m., waving a hammer and spouting racial vulgarities at people of all ages, including children.

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“Upon arrival, police immediately recognized the man, who had been released from police custody earlier that day,” RCMP said. “The man is known to be street-entrenched, with mental health and substance use challenges. The man has resisted community outreach supports and does not appear to be on any housing waitlists.”

A community safety supervisor said there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to link the man to social services and, in the meantime, he’d generated over 22 police files in 2022, mostly for causing a disturbance and mischief, but also for violent and other non-violent offences.

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During this most recent file, the man was arrested but while being taken to police cells, he defecated in the back of the police vehicle.

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“This is an example of the challenges police are dealing with every day. We are continually arresting individuals for repeat criminal offences, but have no legal authority to hold them in custody, and the complexities of their social and personal lives are such that we are stuck in a cycle of catch and release,” Const. Mike Della-Paolera said.

“We have to continuously seek to solve these situations upstream, as the downstream revolving door of enforcement is inadequate to solve this problem. Without well-function(ing) and robust mental health and addiction services through mandated programs, individuals such as this person are going to be landing right back in our cells in no time and the revolving-door process starts all over again.”

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According to Statistics Canada data released last Tuesday, the greater Kelowna area recorded one of the highest crime rates in Canada in 2021, at almost 12,000 cases per 100,000 people. Many of these cases have been attributed to repeat offenders.

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Kelowna invests in “upstream” solutions such as the Community Safety Plan, which pulls together social agencies to help at-risk people, detachment commander Supt. Kara Triance said in a press release.

“Our police officers will continue to arrest those committing crimes, forward charges or seek alternatives and we require supports from the governments at all levels to address these social problems,” she said.

The man is facing four new charges. including causing a disturbance, mischief over $5, 000, mischief under $5,000, and uttering threats.

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