Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps and Esquimalt Mayor Barb Desjardins have released a joint statement commenting on the growing number of assaults involving VicPD officers in the past few months.
“On behalf of the Victoria and Esquimalt Police Board, we denounce the assaults against VicPD officers that have happened in the past few weeks,” the statement reads.
“VicPD officers are working hard in extraordinarily challenging circumstances to serve all members of our community. They need to be safe as they do their important work.”
The statement comes after a number of incidents where officers have either been assaulted or haven’t been adequately equipped dealing with a mental health crisis.
Following Sunday’s shooting that took one man’s life, Victoria City Police Union (VCPU) also released a statement commenting on the violence over the past six months, specifically calling on local governments for more action to combat mental health crisis management.
“The VCPU is not happy with the proverbial ‘revolving door’ that seems to be increasing the likelihood that people in crisis are not getting the support they need,” said VCPU Union Spokesperson, Matt Waterman.
Mayor Helps and Mayor Desjardins acknowledged the “gaps” in the justice and health system.
“Our officers are being left to pick up the pieces and fill the gaps in what are revolving doors in the criminal justice system and the health system. There are not enough services available for people, nor are there the right kinds of services for those who most need them,” their statement read.
Mayor Helps and Mayor Desjardins also referenced Bill C-75—a piece of federal legislation adopted as a “principle of restraint” that requires police to release an accused person at the earliest possible opportunity.
This amendment to the Criminal Code was established in 2019 with a renewed focus on release factoring in the likelihood of an arrested individual attending court, their risk to public safety, and the impact on confidence in the criminal justice system.
In a separate statement from an incident where an officer was headbutted this week, VicPD cited Bill C-75 in the suspect’s subsequent release from custody.
“This [Bill C-75] is founded in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that every person has the right to liberty and the presumption of innocence pre-trial. Police are also asked to consider the circumstances of Indigenous or vulnerable persons in the process, in order to address the disproportionate impacts that the criminal justice system has on these populations,” the release from VicPD said.
With increased assaults against officers persisting, it’s unclear what action can or will be taken by public officials to assure the safety of VicPD officers, and both Mayors did not provide any significant conclusion to their statement.
“It is clearly not working to release people with high needs back into the community without the appropriate support and resources to keep them and the public safe, and our officers out of harm’s way,” the joint statement concluded.
So far this week, there have been two assaults against police officers, one of which involved an off-duty officer.