Kingston – In just one example of many Kingston Police have arrested for the third time in just one week a 25-year-old woman who has no fixed address and is living with mental illness.
Beginning on July 8 uniform patrol officers were dispatched to the area of Division Street and Dalton Avenue where the woman had been flashing a 9-1-1 sign to passing motorists, dancing in a parking lot, attempting to get into a vehicle whose occupants who did not know her and then situated herself inside a U-Haul truck at a gas pump and refused to get out for the driver. The woman attempted to flee from the responding officer and for her safety was arrested for Breach of the Peace, which is an offence that allows officers to arrest and detain, but carries no criminal charge. They are later released but no conditions can be placed upon them as they are not before the courts.
The following day on July 9 officers attended the 400-block area of Montreal Street where people had reported someone screaming for almost 30 minutes. The woman was located on Bagot Street but was uncooperative with police and continued to scream and swear. She was not wearing any shoes and was highly intoxicated. She again was placed under arrest for Breach of the Peace, held in cells until she appeared to have recovered and then later released.
On July 14 Kingston Police were dispatched to the area of Johnson Street and King Street East where the woman was seen ripping flowers out of flower beds. The woman was located playing inside a large vine, covered in dirt and again wearing no shoes. The woman attempted to flee from the officer on foot but after a brief foot pursuit she was apprehended and once more arrested for Breach of the Peace.
Police were able to verify the woman had also damaged flower beds in Market Square and at local cathedral, but with no complainants wishing to lay charges officers are restricted in their options. Additionally, while police may suspect or even verify mental health issues, if the person does not pose a danger to themselves or others there is a limitation to an apprehension under the Mental Health Act to take them to a hospital for medical care.
The woman was transported and lodged in cells with the anticipation of releasing her once she no longer posed a danger to disturb the peace again. The woman then purposely clogged her toilet and flooded her cell and the cell block area where she was located. This interfered with the proper use of police cells, and for the purpose of attempting to have the woman receive a mental health assessment and diversion it was decided by the Watch Commander to charge her with Mischief.
Kingston Police have had 26 occurrences or calls for service for this woman since 2011, which is hardly the highest concentrated number compared to other known persons. While this is not meant to lay blame on individuals Kingston Police want to highlight how a large percentage of frontline policing is dedicated to mental health and addiction issues responses. There were 1,074 calls for service in 2015 under the category for mental health, but the vast majority are coded for the original purpose of the response, such as assist citizen, medical emergency, disturbing the peace, criminal offences and more, so the true impact is much higher and harder to define than one simple category.
An apprehension under the Mental Health Act (MHA) often removes at least two officers from being dispatched to other calls for service for sometimes hours while they are at the hospital to ensure the person is not a danger to themselves or others while waiting for the person to be admitted by medical staff. During some shifts there have been multiple MHA apprehensions in a short period of time, resulting in multiple officers being unavailable, putting additional stress on the remaining patrol personnel and dispatchers, who must prioritize calls for service with shrinking frontline availability.
Within the last two years a L.E.A.D. protocol has been created in agreement between Kingston Police, OPP, Kingston General Hospital and Addiction and Mental Health Services of KFL&A, where one of its objectives is the attempt to reduce the time officers are kept caring for the person while seeking medical care. For a variety of reasons such as the person no longer posing an immediate danger to themselves, lack of available beds and other resources with the downsizing of mental health facilities in the province, the individual is often released back into the community and first responders have little choice but to deal with them again in the best, yet limited, way they know how.
Kingston Police has created a dedicated Vulnerable Sector Unit (VSU) in Criminal Investigations, where detectives are trained and assigned cases in relation to those living with mental illness, elder abuse, and more. These detectives work closely with some of these high-risk individuals or those who the frontline officers are frequently having contact with, but there are still challenges even outside their scope. Community Risk Watch was also implemented in 2016, which is a collaborative, integrated multi-agency team striving to build safer and healthier communities through rapid mobilization of resources and service connections to meet the immediate needs of individuals and families experiencing acutely elevated levels of risk.
Additionally, Kingston Police has a strong working and enhanced relationship with organizations like Addiction and Mental Health Services of KFL&A, whose Mobile Crisis Team can respond and offer additional care, resources and referrals. However, while their Crisis Line (613-544-4229 or toll-free 1-866-616-6005) is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, the Mobile Crisis Team is not available as an option for officers during midnight shifts. More information on AMHS KFL&A and other links can be found on their website.