Some Canadian police academies are using "inaccurate and outdated" material when training officers to work with people with mental health issues, says a report released by the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
Released at the annual gathering of the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police in Victoria, the report notes mental health professionals are not included in the development or delivery of curricula.
This "denies new officers the opportunity to become familiar their mental health counterparts," says the report.
Insufficient education is cited as the main reason police resort to using undue force rather than responding "appropriately and empathically” to cases involving people with mental health issues.
In the past seven years a number of high-profile police shooting deaths involving mentally ill individuals resulted in public outcry for change in policing practices.
Saskatoon police Chief Clive Weighill, the association's newly elected president, said people with mental illness need the health system, not the justice system.
The report acknowledges that some advances have been made in the past seven years, including the increased attention to the need for police officers to be trained in de-escalation and crisis intervention tactics.
The success cases cited include the B.C. police force’s Crisis Intervention and De-escalation training, the Halifax Regional Police's Regional Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team and the Toronto Police Response to Emotionally Disturbed Persons training.
Sixteen key recommendations are outlined in the report, mainly dealing with education and training of police officers to improve their interactions with people with mental health issues.
The recommendations include the implementation of provincial policing standards to ensure a unified level of training for all police personnel regardless of local jurisdiction.
More than 400 law enforcement leaders from civilian and military police are taking part in the gathering in Victoria.
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