Will the death of an RCMP officer trigger changes in the approach to BC’s homeless population?


While the inquest into the death of Const. Shaelyn Yang continues, her eventual results could have an effect on how first responders approach homelessness and mental health calls.

Yang was fatally stabbed on Tuesday while responding to a call in a homeless man’s tent in a Burnaby park. His alleged killer, Jongwon Ham, remains in hospital with gunshot wounds.

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Kash Heed, former solicitor general of British Columbia and former chief of the West Vancouver Police Department, said the death raises questions that police officers across the province are currently facing.

« Conversations are happening in police departments right now, they’re discussing how they’re going to respond to these incidents to make sure officer safety is paramount in dealing with these people, » he said. declared.

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“Secondly, there is going to be a review, a management review here of what happened here in the police department, in the RCMP.”

Click to play the video: 'Fallen officer Const.  Shaelyn Yang honored with procession'

Fallen Officer Const. Shaelyn Yang honored with a procession

In Vancouver, police say safety protocols and training are already in place to deal with potentially dangerous situations, based on decades of experience with worsening homelessness and mental health crises.

Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. Steve Addison said substance abuse, homelessness and mental health issues are not crimes, but their complex interplay can often lead to safety issues.

« It’s a concern for us VPD, we have a lot of experience running camps…and we take precautions when responding to incidents, » said Vancouver police spokesman Sgt. . said Steve Addison.

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« We know there is an increased risk to our officers and there is volatility in the encampments, so we are certainly taking steps to mitigate the volatility. »

Addison said « nothing will change » for the VPD in the wake of Yang’s death, and that police will continue to respond to calls as needed.

But with Yang’s death specifically aside, there have been changes to how calls for homeless campers are handled in the city.

The president of the union representing park rangers told Global News that for some time members have stopped opening unresponsive tents without police assistance.

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Suspect charged in Burnaby RCMP officer’s death

Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services said they have also changed some policies recently in response to growing risks.

Capt. Matthew Trudeau, public information officer for the VFRS, said department staff – from overdose awareness to fire prevention teams – were met with hostility and even weapons at times.

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“Not so long ago we had a crew almost attacked with a machete inside a building – these are violent and very serious attacks, and these events highlight the additional need for precautions and situational awareness, » he said.

“Our number of inspectors entering a building has increased purely because of security, where we would respond with one inspector now we will have two or three in certain areas just to increase security in numbers and have more eyes open. »

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Trudeau said crews responding to fire calls in the Downtown Eastside are now routinely accompanied by police, both to control traffic and to keep members safe.

These changes, Trudeau said, were responses to the symptom of the growing number of mental health crises in the city. Addressing the root cause with more comprehensive mental health care facilities will be key, he said.

It’s a view shared by Heed, arguing that the province must consider reopening the Riverview Mental Health Hospital that his own BC Liberal government closed in 2012.

“We need a place to institutionalize these people who have these severe mental health capacity issues. …to see what a modern-type Riverview would look like,” he said.

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“We need to do a full assessment of what is out there and what we need to do it, and part of that is putting people in a facility where they will get the help they need – not just a 30 , 60 or 90 day installation. We are looking at a continuum of care for people who have these serious mental health issues that lead to the behavior that we are unfortunately experiencing right now with the passing of this officer.

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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