Someone shared an article from Vancouver’s Megaphone magazine with me today- there’s so much wrong with this story I hardly know where to start. The story is about how Darrell Barnes, a mentally ill man who lived in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside (DTES) was shot and killed by the police. They first started shooting him with a non-lethal beanbag gun- but, as he continued charging at them, they escalated to a real gun. Barnes was carrying a machete- so, the police had a genuine reason to feel the need to escalate.
Hyslop focusses her story on how the cops should have de-escalated the situation, rather than having used force. This is curious, as it matches exactly the words Vancouver Cop Watches’ David Eby used when he was quoted by CKNW on July 29th:
“Certainly the Downtown Eastside issues of mental health and addiction are very prominent,” he stresses. “Secondly, looking at officer experience levels. Many officers working in the Downtown Eastside are rookies. Are they properly trained to de-escalate conflict?”
This is typical Ebyesque muddying of the waters. He makes a statement like “many officers are rookies” as a political attempt to discredit the police. One has to wonder what Eby or Hyslop would do if they were charged by a drugged-up mentally ill man carrying a machete? Barnes was high on a combination of alcohol, heroin and cocaine- have they ever watched Scarface?
There’s not much reasoning with a mentally ill person, high on a cocktail of drugs & alcohol, who is carrying a deadly weapon. I’m sure the police tried, but considering Barnes’ condition, it is more likely than not that he wouldn’t listen to reasoning and de-escalation techniques.
Next, Hyslop brings another one of Eby’s compatriots into the conversation- Ann Livingston, co-founder of the Vancouver Area Network of Drug Users (VANDU), and a member of the VANDU supported Vancouver Cop Watch (VCW). Livingston first shares VCW’s feelings about ‘The Beat’ a TV series about policing in the DTES that VCW is constantly pushes hate towards. Then, Livingston complains about “the open hostility officers show towards those in the neighbourhood.”
That’s funny Ann, because it seems to me that VCW pushes open hostility towards the police. I showed that in my story earlier today where Jennifer Allan insults, threatens and hucks racist abuse at the police. I’ve also showed that on a number of other stories about Cop Watch going doughnut fishing, and creating a divide between the police and the people of the DTES.
Ann, if you are part of the problem, what gives you the gall to think you can criticise others like that? Are you pushing a political agenda perhaps? And, are you using government funding to do that? Or, does this incident discredit the reasoning behind your funding? Was Barnes one of her patients?
The basis of the story ends-up being that the police need more training in dealing with people with mental health issues. And, perhaps this is correct- but, that’s not the full story. There’s a lot more that needs to be fixed- two issues in particular.
First, British Columbia shut-down most of it’s mental hospital beds, and transferred patients to community based care. This may work for many patients, but it obviously didn’t work for Darrell Barnes. Instead, he was left out on the streets, ans was not receiving treatment for his illness. So, the province has made the streets of Vancouver’s DTES into a de-facto mental hospital, and it obviously isn’t working. Regardless of what Livingston says, any neighbourhood where one can run into an intoxicated mentally ill person with a machete is a dangerous one.
The next problem is BC’s harm reduction policy. By allowing and enabling people to use drugs in the DTES, organizations like VANDU are part of the problem- not part of the solution. Barnes was self-medicating on a dangerous cocktail of drugs and alcohol- had the system not enabled him to be that way, it is quite likely he would still be alive today.
As I wrote back in June- the enabling culture of Vancouver’s DTES is an act of murder. Those who fight to keep the status-quo are not helping the situation. If Ann Livingston wants to justify her funding at VANDU, instead of complaining about how the police are doing their jobs poorly, why doesn’t she give us some solid examples of the people she is enabling to be addicted who are success stories? Are there any?
Somehow I doubt it…