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Thursday 27 June 2019
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PCA: Cops must help the mentally ill

Anand Ramesar
Anand Ramesar

The Police Complaints Authority (PCA) has expressed grave concern over the statement made by the Police Social and Welfare Association (PSWA) that police are not properly trained to deal with mentally ill patients.

“While the PCA supports all initiatives to provide and improve training to police officers, the PCA does not endorse the proposition that citizens should not call upon the police for assistance if they feel that they are in danger of or have encountered violence by someone who is mentally ill,” the PCA’s Communications Unit said in a media release yesterday.

On Thursday, PSWA general secretary acting ASP Anand Ramesar said police training is inadequate for its members to deal with the mentally ill. He added the police should not be the first responders to assist mentally ill people who have become violent.

Ramesar’s comments came in light of the latest police killing of a mentally ill man, Colin Roopchan, 26. On Tuesday, at Roopchan’s home in La Romaine, police shot and killed him. The bipolar man was acting violent and abusive towards his mother and according to police, he attacked them.

The PCA yesterday described the killing as unfortunate and the PCA is currently investigating the matter. The Professional Standards Bureau is also investigating instances where police are required to give an account for what may be an excessive or unreasonable use of force.

The PCA release said that according to TTPS’s Standing Order No 33 Section 4, a police officer shall render assistance on the following occasions:

“(a) When required by a mental health officer; (b) when called upon by a member of the family, friend, legal guardian or relative of the mentally ill person; (c) when a request is made by any member of the public.”

The PCA called on acting Commissioner of Police Stephen Williams to provide the public with information as it relates to the level of training provided to its members in this regard. It further called on him to give an account of the failure, if any, to provide training on treating with those who are mentally ill and who pose a threat to the public.

When contacted yesterday, Williams said he did not want to “speak freely” on the matter. He suggested that all questions be sent to his office’s communications department. Thereafter, he promised to respond by providing full details “as it relates to training and all other matters raised so that total clarity would be brought on the matter.”

Sunday Newsday also contacted Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh in an attempt to find out what options, if any, are available for mental health care professionals to partner with the police.

He said: “This is something that needs a lot of examination This needs a lot of investigations. I would have to talk to several people including the legal department. I cannot just make up an answer just because a question was posed to me.”

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