A man was taken to Royal Columbian Hospital after a six-hour incident attended by nearly 20 police officers.
New Westminster police officers were called to a building near Royal Avenue and 10th Street in response to reports of someone who appeared to be experiencing a mental health crisis.
“The man had allegedly scaled the outside wall of the condominium and was standing dangerously close to a second-storey ledge,” said a press release from the New Westminster Police Department. “When attempts were made to communicate with the man, he jumped from the second-storey ledge to an adjacent roof and ran out of sight.”
Due to the high-risk behaviours observed, the Lower Mainland Emergency Response Team and a New Westminster Police Department negotiator were called to the scene.
According to the press release, the negotiator made contact with the man, who had moved to the ledge of the adjacent rooftop. She proceeded to negotiate with him for the next six hours.
“I can’t give you an average time of how long they typically take, but on the scale of things, yes, that is quite a lengthy time for a high-risk call,” said media spokesperson Sgt. Sanjay Kumar.
The incident, which began about 9 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 7, concluded about 4 a.m. when the man was safely taken into custody and transported to hospital.
“We are just glad that person was safely cared for,” Kumar said. “He was taken to RCH to assess his mental well-being. We are glad it was resolved without incident and that no one was injured.”
Kumar said the specially trained negotiator maintained communication with the man throughout the incident, with the support of a team of officers.
“There were actually 19 officers there,” he told the Record. “That includes our canine unit, our negotiating team and the emergency response team members.”
New Westminster Police urge anyone experiencing a mental health crisis to call 9-1-1 if they believe they’re at risk of harming themselves or others. People in need of mental health support can visit www.crisiscentre.bc.ca or www.fraserhealth.ca.
“I am tremendously proud of the excellent work of New Westminster Police Department officers,” said Chief Const. Dave Jansen in a press release. “The patience, professionalism and compassion shown in the response to this man in crisis was outstanding. We will be there for you; we will not give up.”
In addition to the initial training they receive at the police academy, Kumar said New Westminster police officers receive additional training through the department related to mental health issues. He said two officers, including one of the department’s negotiators, are specifically dedicated to dealing with mental health calls.
“The Mental Health Act files, he typically reviews them all. If there is any followup of feedback to be done, that member will do that himself,” he said. “It will help with the training, and members will find out what they can improve on, if anything, and what they did well.”
Jansen provided a report to the New Westminster police board in June regarding concerns and questions about police practices and policies related to events that have been taking place in North America. The reported stated New West police officers attend about 1,050 calls for service a year in which the attending officer has referred a file to the department’s mental health unit, but officers attend “many more” calls where mental health plays a role.
In June, the New Westminster police board approved several motions by Mayor Jonathan Cote, who chairs the police board. Those included engaging with the provincial government to work with the city to develop a new model to address crisis health management, with the goal of creating a pilot community-based crisis management program.