For the record: Judge Sandhu on emergency mental-health services

Judge Fred Sandhu

I’m a big fan of provincial court Judge Fred Sandhu.

While I don’t always agree with every decision he makes, I respect his willingness to put his thoughts on the record.

Tuesday was no different. But instead of taking aim at Manitoba’s booze problem, he fired on the lack of emergency mental-health services available to people.

His long tirade came during a sentencing hearing for John Favell, a clinically depressed, alcoholic, criminal who is now serving his second federal bit for robberies.

You can read my story here to get the flavour of what Favell did and the help he sought — but was denied — before he started drinking and robbing again.

I thought it was important — to put the judge’s full comments on the record, and I present it verbatim (for the most part) below. Sandhu is largely speaking directly to him.

I’ve said this many times before. I don’t see why people who feel they’re alcoholic can’t manage their lives either by drugs or alcohol and they go into a medical facility and ask for medical help, why can’t they get it right away?

I don’t understand that.

Because if you went into a hospital and said, ‘I’ve got cancer,’ … they’d give you treatment.

But apparently if you go in and you have a broken brain, you don’t get treatment.

I don’t understand that, because this could have been prevented.

All of this could have been prevented if they’d taken you, if there was a bed.

If they had more than 30 spaces at all the psychiatric hospitals in the city — that’s all they have, and they’re full all the time and people like you who walk in there and say, ‘I’m in a mental emergency,’ they won’t take you because your not a danger to yourself and you’re not a danger to others. Or they don’t think you are. So they don’t let you in.

Because there are people that are in these psychiatric beds, the ones that are clearly a danger to themselves or clearly a danger to others.

And people who are kind of maybe not a danger, well, ‘you’ll just have to walk home.’

Because you’re not horribly bad, just kind of mildly bad.

To me, it seems short sighted. You should have gone to that hospital, you should have gone for an assessment for seven days, stabilize you and out you go.

And then there wouldn’t be five victims out there.

And you wouldn’t be spending six years in jail at $100,000 a year.

You’re a half million dollar man already. And that it would have taken is a few thousand to get you some treatment.

It doesn’t make sense.

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Say hello to last year

(Winnipeg Police Service)

One month before 2011 is set to begin, The Winnipeg Police Service officially releases its annual report for 2009.

 

Oddly, they’re also holding a press conference for reporters to discuss, ask questions about and dissect last year’s news.

I’ll save you the trouble. There’s none to be found in it. Well, almost.

Problem is it’s unfair to claim this data as reflective of anything because it’s so old.

Once again, the report notes police spend a lot of their time going to domestic disturbances. It’s far and away the patrol officer’s #1 job.

 

 

Homicide clearances are the same as in 2008, at 81 per cent. So, roughly 1 in 5 go unsolved. Not bad, given the gang problem in the city.

(Winnipeg Police Service)

Two other things jump out: (see chart)

 

1] The number of firearms/offensive weapons crimes jumped 46 per cent over 2008 — what appears to be a jump of about 200+ occurrences. A reflection of how much more potentially dangerous the city’s become — not just for the public — but for police officers as well.

2] A spike in robberies of 30 per cent, with a clearance rate of 29 per cent.

Robberies, however, were up 30 per cent last year over 2008.

That’s concerning, as robberies are frequently identified by the general public as a crime they are greatly concerned about. They should be.

In 2007-08, we saw a drop in robberies of about 16 per cent, but the clearance rate remained the same.

Arsons were also up in 2009 — by 35 per cent — but the clearance rate a slim 16 per cent.

The year before that, arsons jumped by a whopping 58 per cent, but the clearance rate was standing at about 26 per cent.

The thing that jumped out at me the most from last year’s report, however, has to be this statement:

Analysis has revealed that about 70% of the 5,000 missing person reports managed each year by the WPS are wards of child protection agencies. Many of these youths are chronic runaways, some with more than 150 police contacts. Research and experience has taught us that these chronic run- aways are frequently victimized, criminalized and exploited by predators while on the run from child- care facilities.

That just says to me the province is offloading its responsibility to care and watch over these kids to the police service and the city.

More must be done to supervise them, or the province should be kicking in more to pay for apprehending them.

Better yet — one thing the province could do is detail some probation officers to a quasi missing persons unit to head out and look for these kids. Would cost less and free up police officer time to bust robbers and gun-traffickers, instead of babysit.

But, who knows. It’s year-old news. Maybe everything’s changed since the dawn of 2010.

2009_wps_annual_report_english – PDF is 2+MB in size.

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PS: I did love this picture in it to accompany the page describing the “investigative” units:

(Winnipeg Police Service)

The suit-wearing suspect just says something to me, I guess.