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Feb 21, 2023

ComPol Resolute on Addressing Mental Health Cases

As has been reported, by law, it is the police who have the mandate to handle any mental health patient who may be having an acute episode. The last time the Commissioner of Police commented on the issue, he spoke of the sensitivity of officers dealing with mentally challenged persons.  Last week, police officers were trained by the Ministry of Health and Wellness to build their capacity in dealing with these issues. Today, ComPol Chester Williams said that police officers do not have the capacity to handle these cases and it would be great if a mental health professional can accompany officers during incidents involving mental health patients.


Chester Williams

Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police

“We have to be extremely cautious with. While yes, the police may have some responsibility, we must understand that police are not trained psychiatrist to be able to evaluate people to say that this person is suffering from some mental disability. That information must come from a trained person and so we have to rely on the expert opinion of the psychiatrist to guide us. And so we can’t just go to someone and say you are mentally challenged and then we pick you up and take you to some institution. It must go through a process. And then, the police will have that legal authority if that person commits a crime, then we step in. But we still have to ensure in dealing with these matters – whether or not this person is accused of committing a crime – that we follow certain protocols so that the police does not end up hurting the individual or vice versa because we have to understand that these issues are very complex. It is easy to throw everything on the police and the minute something goes wrong, the police are the ones to be blamed. Nobody would factor in that the police had no training in dealing with the matter; they would just throw it on us. We are always the easiest person to blame when something goes wrong. I would like to see a situation where the police would respond along with someone from the mental health institution. It would be the more appropriate response as opposed to the police responding alone because the person from the mental health institution would be able to guide the police in terms of what methods they can use to subdue or to reach out to the person in such a way that the person will be able to understand and respond to the police.”


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