Over the last three years, mental health-related calls to the Nelson police have been increasing. 

Several years ago, the Nelson Police Department pitched the idea of having a mental health worker ride-along with police officers, but the idea was shot down by Interior Health. “Car 87” was modeled after a successful program in the Downtown Eastside that began in 1987, although not every police vehicle has a mental health worker in it now. And in the past year, there has been an increase of people in Canada and the U.S. calling to defund the police and spend those budgets on social services instead. There’s currently a commission in B.C. working on reviewing police relations with mental health and race.

“I think we’re very good at these types of calls, I just don’t think we should be the ones that are doing it,” Chief Const. Paul Burkart said. “There are better people in the community to be dealing with some of these calls. They will not be able to deal with all our mental health calls, because they’re just not equipped to do that.”

Nelson’s Chief Constable Paul Burkart shares the police perspective on the rise in cases — and what the role of the police is when it comes to mental health: