‘No one should need to die in the street’: Victoria police union calls for change after fatal shooting

'No one should need to die in the street': Victoria police union calls for change after fatal shooting
Courtesy Kevin Toffey
WatchThere are calls for more mental health and addictions resources after a fatal police shooting in Victoria Sunday. April Lawrence reports.

A man in crisis, reported to be armed with a knife, was surrounded by police near Mayfair Mall Sunday. After an hour of negotiations, the interaction ended when a Victoria police officer shot and killed him.

The tragedy has the police union calling for change.

“We do feel like the public deserves better, no one should need to die in the street,” said union spokesperson Matt Waterman.

Waterman says it’s the second time in six months an officer has had to fire a weapon. In March a man armed with a knife in the Royal Jubilee hospital emergency room was shot by police but survived.

“If some supports are in place for that person maybe we can reduce the times where we need to deal with someone who threatens the public with a knife or a bat or whatever it is,” Waterman said.

He said it’s because those interactions can end in tragedy. In June 2020, Chantel Moore was fatally shot by police in New Brunswick during a wellness check. Officers reported she had a knife when they arrived on scene.

In July 2015, 24-year-old James Hayward, who struggled with mental illness, was shot dead by police in Port Hardy after making threats with a knife.

And less than a year before that 20-year-old Rhett Mutch was shot and killed after charging at Victoria police officers with a knife. An inquest ruled his death a suicide.

“We need to build systems so that people are less likely to have their symptoms worsen and they end up in crisis so we need to do lots more to prevent crises from happening in the first place,” said Jonny Morris, CEO of the Canadian Mental Health Association B.C. Division.

But some argue it’s the response to mental health calls that needs to change. Within the next year Victoria will launch a ‘Peer Assisted Crisis Team’ pilot project, where a team of civilians, including mental health experts, would be the first to respond to mental health calls.

READ MORE: Pilot ‘Peer Assisted Crisis Team’ coming to Victoria as alternative to police response

“We see that we are able to address these kinds of community challenges without police and that ends up being safer for all,” said Victoria City Councillor Sarah Potts who says similar programs around the world have had excellent outcomes.

“What would you need in a crisis? And I think I would like a health response when I’m having a mental health challenge,” she said.

But the Victoria police union says officers should still be called when a weapon is involved.

“For those who don’t think we should be helping with mental health calls, I disagree wholeheartedly. I think our people are well prepared to help with those things but we also know we should be working with others who are professionally trained,” Waterman said.

If you or someone you knows is having a mental health crisis in B.C. you can call 310-6789 to get help.

April LawrenceApril Lawrence

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