Peel police chief launches initiative to help with mental health calls
TORONTO -- At the five-month mark as Peel Region's Police Chief, Nishan Duraiappah is launching an initiative to help with increasing mental health calls.
"Now, it's time to get moving," Duraiappah said.
In a one-on-one interview with CTV News Toronto, the chief said that over the last few months, he has recognized the biggest challenge in his new role.
"I think the biggest challenge is, for me, is going to always be how to do more with less. And I would love to apply additional resources endlessly, but that's not our environment."
In collaboration with the Canadian Mental Health Association of Peel-Dufferin, Peel Regional Police has launched the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Team to help address the issue of limited resources. It will allow officers to team up with crisis workers, with the goal of reducing the number of hours police spend on mental health calls.
"About 16 times a day, two officers each time, we are taking an individual under the mental health act to one of our local hospitals," Duraiappah said, adding that officers can spend up to five hours waiting at the hospital on each call.
In 2015, Peel police officers appended 4,488 people under the Mental Health Act, and the numbers climbed significantly to 5,796 in 2019.
It is estimated that Peel Regional Police spent $1.8 million in police salaries waiting in emergency rooms with apprehended individuals.
The new initiative is part of what the chief is calling "deconstructing" methods of policing to adapt to the new issues facing communities. He said the police service is also focusing on a new surge of web-based crimes.
"The response and investigation is not an officer on four rubber tires," said Duraiappah. "It's somebody back here in bricks and mortar, with a lot of web-based tools trying to figure out where that came from. That is a complete shift that the public doesn't necessarily see, but dominates a lot of our time."
Meanwhile, violent crimes have also seen a steep increase, with the chief placing the blame on the availability of firearms.
In particular, there has recently been an unprecedented number of armed bank robberies in Peel Region and neighbouring jurisdictions. Duraiappah says about 30 armed bank robberies took place in Peel Region in the last three months of 2019, and nine more have happened since January 2020. A specialized police team is now working with other police services across the GTHA.
Duraiappah admits he has his work cut out for him, but looks forward to tackling the issues facing his region.
"It means being innovative with technology, and bringing people in to deal with pressures, and that is the future of policing."