Pivot Legal Society calls for systemic changes to police training and policy around mental health-related calls at coroner's inquest into the death of Tony Du

For Immediate Release

February 5, 2018

Vancouver, BC – Living with mental illness should not be a death sentence, but it was for 51-year-old Tony Du, who was shot and killed by a Vancouver police officer in 2014 “within minutes” of the officer arriving on scene according to witnesses. Pivot Legal Society, along with lawyer Frances Mahon, is supporting the family of Tony Du during this week’s coroner’s inquest into his death.

To help ensure public safety, especially for those living with mental illness, Pivot Legal Society is making the following recommendations:

  • Implementation of the Memphis Model Crisis Intervention Team program for the Vancouver Police Department (VPD). This consists of 40 hours of training for 20% of general duty officers who are selected for appropriate characteristics, abilities, and backgrounds, and are designated as Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) officers. These officers wear special identification, and there would be at least one on duty in each district every shift. While performing regular patrol, they would be prioritized as first responders in suspected mental health-related calls.
  • The use of plain clothes officers in unmarked vehicles as the preferred secondary option for responding to suspected incidents of mental health distress.
  • Training for 911 call takers and dispatch personnel to recognize signs of mental health distress and engage specific protocols appropriate for those circumstances.
  • Whenever possible, use of shields as opposed to guns and tasers during incidents of mental health distress where there is a weapon or risk of violence.
  • Promotion of a department-wide culture shift, to use a calm, patient, and de-escalating approach when officers engage members of the public in crisis, rather than the traditional authoritative and commanding manner.

Improving police accountability

“People should not be killed because of their mental illness,” said Camia Weaver, Policing Policy Consultant with Pivot Legal Society. "Police need to change the way they approach these interactions and not come in yelling with guns blazing. If they cannot recognize why this is problematic, and cannot use the skills they should have to de-escalate a person in crisis, they should not be there."

Tony Du was shot and killed by a VPD officer blocks away from his home on November 22, 2014 near the intersection of Knight St. and 41st Ave. Du lived with mental illness and was carrying a piece of wood at the time. Multiple witnesses say he was acting non-violently, yet police shot and killed him “within minutes” of arriving, according to reports.

The coroner’s inquest is from Monday, February 5 to Friday, February 9 at BC Coroners Service (20th floor – 4720 Kingsway Street, Burnaby). #TonyDu #Justice4Tony

 

Contact

Peter Kim, Communications & Digital Engagement Manager

Pivot Legal Society

604-229-6128 (cell)

peter@pivotlegal.org

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About Pivot Legal Society

Pivot Legal Society is a leading Canadian human rights organization that uses the law to address the root causes of poverty and social exclusion in Canada. Pivot’s award-winning work includes challenging laws and policies that force people to the margins of society and keep them there. Since 2002 Pivot has won major victories for sex workers’ rights, police accountability, affordable housing, and health and drug policy.