OPINION: COPS Do Not Need More Training, the Politicians and Public Do

Thunder Bay Police Service 911

By Jim Mauro

THUNDER BAY – OPINION – Recently two police officers responded to a 911 call with an individual having a mental health crisis. It was the family who called, in what I can only assume was their desire for someone to get their family member under control.

Upon arrival the officers were confronted by the individual in crisis and the struggle was on. During the struggle, the male sustained an injury to his nose, but it was not serious.

It goes without saying that the man’s family was overcome with gratitude for the efforts of the officers and heaped enormous praise on them. If you believe that, speak to me about the 3000 square ft Hawaiian Ocean Villa that I have for sale for ten thousand dollars.

During the struggle, instead of finding ways to assist the officers, the family recorded what was happening. The family then went to the police station and wanted to lodge a formal complaint against the officers for their conduct in subduing the man.

This non-stop public backlash against cops needs to stop or one day when you are calling for help, no one will be coming.

The common refrain from those “do-gooders”, “social media keyboard warriors” and “policing experts” within society, is that the police need more training in how to deal with individuals having a mental health crisis.

Now why didn’t the cops think of this themselves? Just one or two more days of training and these officers will be as good at dealing with these calls as those professionals who go to school and receive training in crisis care that takes anywhere from 4-10 years.

Do we care at all that these “professionals” most often see individuals in a different setting than police do? Do we recognize that the officer will never be trained to a degree that will enable them to deal with the ever-increasing demands of the mental health situation that has been brewing in our society for years? When did this issue become the responsibility of the police?

Countless politicians, advocates who make their living yelling at police, or just Johnny on the corner, all know how it “should have been done” because they saw it work on Law and Order.

When the police are called, it tends to be for situations that no one else wants to deal with. When police are running towards a problem, others are running away from it. Often, these situations are not going to go well, and people may get hurt. Officers routinely deal with bad situations, and it is only because of the professionalism and dedication of police officers that more negative outcomes do not take place.

For years this nonsense about cops needing to be better trained to deal with mental health problems has become the “go-to” refrain of many political leaders to absolve themselves of their complete and total lack of attention to this problem. Let’s just look at Thunder Bay.

Mental health challenges have exploded in our city over the past two decades. Who would like to take responsibility for this situation. Should we blame the Federal Government, the province or perhaps past and current city Council’s for their lack of action? Any government looking to accept some of the blame?

So, when these situations present themselves, the brave women and men of 1200 Balmoral are called. Often EMS staff find themselves dealing with these challenges also, and their efforts should always be recognized, but I do not want to do them a disservice by speaking about them here. They deserve their own article.

The public and politicians routinely blame police officers for negative calls involving those with mental health/addiction challenges, homelessness and even overrepresentation of certain segments of society in our prison system. Did the police create these issues or were they far too often asked to deal with problems? This constant narrative about additional training is just everyone else’s desire to deflect responsibility from their own inaction. The public is so used to accepting the negatives about the police that they do not even pay attention anymore.

If magically we could provide adequate mental health treatment and assist those with addictions, officers could get back to doing what they signed up for; prevent crime and keep people safe, something that has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Can you imagine having police officers targeting violent criminals because they had the time to, developing informants, conducting surveillance while on shift, being able to stop vehicles because their instinct tells them they should. What a concept.

Crime prevention is on the back-burner in part due to the demands of an out of touch public and political system busy downloading accountability for these problems to the police. By being able to label an interaction with a mentally disturbed person, or one battling addictions as an overreaction by police, or by issuing the “go-to” cry of more training, they can continue to deflect attention from their own pitiful efforts.

Below I have provided the fundamental role of a police officer.

Declaration of principles

1 Police services shall be provided throughout Ontario in accordance with the following principles:

  1. The need to ensure the safety and security of all persons and property in Ontario.
  2. The importance of safeguarding the fundamental rights guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Human Rights Code.
  3. The need for co-operation between the providers of police services and the communities they serve.
  4. The importance of respect for victims of crime and understanding of their needs.
  5. The need for sensitivity to the pluralistic, multiracial and multicultural character of Ontario society.
  6. The need to ensure that police forces are representative of the communities they serve.

The first one, “the safety and security of everyone and property was always the priority of police agencies, long before anyone wondered about the Canadian Constitution, or the Human Rights Code. But what is not said in this list, is that in attempting to keep people safe, others may get hurt.

It was entirely possible that when that family called for the mental health crisis, the family member they called about could get hurt. In keeping a woman safe from an abusive husband, the husband may get hurt. In calling about a suspect possibly committing a crime, the suspect may get hurt. Today the public seems to have forgotten that.

Far too often the refrain has been “the police know they could get hurt when they signed up for the job”. Yes, but that does not mean they have to allow it to happen. An officer does not have to wait until he is punched in the face, attacked with a weapon, or shot at to protect themselves or others.

There is one constant in most cases when someone is hurt by police that is rarely spoken about, especially by the media who just love to cover these stories. It is this: if the person had just complied, nothing would have happened. The cases of excessive force are the exception not the rule, but it is the exception covered endlessly, not the routinely handled calls that dwarf those “bad calls” by 10,000 or 100,000 to one. Almost always were it not for the person either resisting, or actively fighting everything would have been fine. Why is our media never covering that part of the story?

There was one incident in the US at a drive through where the media questioned why that officer shot a fleeing suspect in the back. It was a complex situation where the suspect obtained an officer’s weapon, but no one said the following: if the man had simply gone into the cruiser when arrested, nothing would have happened. They had been with the man for almost twenty minutes before this took place. It was the actions of the man in resisting arrest that led to the incident, not the actions of the officer, but you wouldn’t know it by the media coverage that took place.

Thunder Bay Police Chief Darcy Fleury recently put out an email about the challenges his staff are facing. Comparing February last year to this year, all of the following increased in 2024; Total Calls, Domestic Assault, Assaults, and Suicide/Attempt Suicide. He also stated the following:

“….There are ever-increasing calls related to mental health, addictions and living unhoused. Although these aren’t necessarily crimes, they still need a police response. In addition we are all impacted by the criminal element that preys on marginalized people in our community…..I am constantly concerned about the toll this takes on our members. Responding to calls of this nature can cause injury and as a result there are several officer on leave….”

The Chief of Police understands the challenges being faced and the reality that many of these calls are not police related. Without specifically saying it, he shines a light on what is clear: those responsible for these issues look to police to deal with them.

Everyday there is another story that makes me want to scream about the absurdity of policing in this county. Soon I will write about the new Police Act, another gift to the complaining class that will give them more power to go after police officers but will do little if anything to make communities safer.

In the Toronto area recently, it was suggested that homeowners should leave their car keys by the front door so that the thieves looking to steal them, won’t be confronted and the homeowner will be safer because many of these thieves are armed. A great idea. Let’s expand this to keeping garage doors open, free theft days and maybe to save time, leaving the car keys in the car as to not inconvenience thieves. But of course, ultimately the rise in crime will be blamed on the police.

There has been this steady stream of police bashing over the past two decades, something I have spoken about often. It has unquestionably led to serious challenges in recruitment where it is common for police agencies to consider and even hire individuals who would not have past the second stage of testing 30 years ago. Is this beneficial to public safety?

For countless reasons, less and less officers are on the road to respond to your emergencies and no police Chief in this country in my view is brave enough to say it has even led some officers to follow the FIDO approach.

That acronym stands for “F*** it, drive on” where officers sometimes will just say, it is not worth getting involved in X situation knowing that they will become Monday morning cannon fodder if even the slightest thing goes wrong. There have been far too many examples of police officers being the flavour of the day by politicians looking to score political points long before the facts have come out.

If the public is truly supportive of police as they say they are, if they truly want the police to be there when needed, then how about showing it in a very meaningful way. Publicly denounce the do-gooders who obtained their policing degree from their couch. Support the police by publicly challenging those politicians who use police officers to avoid their own accountability. Push back on media stories that are obviously slanted to portray officers in a negative light. Do that, and I can almost guarantee you that in ten years time, we will return to the days when recruitment for this job won’t be like it is today. But given today’s politically correct climate, it is unlikely to happen.

The public by and large seems to follow the theory that if it is not happening to them, someone else will push back on a narrative used by suspects, keyboard warriors, political opportunists, and the media, that often, is hugely inaccurate.

That is why giving the cops more training is not the answer. With politically motivated politicians, and a majority of the public disinterested until it happens to them, the mantra, “cops need more training” will remain with us. Just a thought.

If you have any comments about this story or wish to suggest a topic for a story please contact me at   justathought@gmail.com.  All comments will remain confidential.

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