Yet again this year, (and staff members can recall fighting this proposal back to at least 1997) the Victoria Police Department has asked Victoria City Council to add $240,000 to the $52 million/year police budget, to embed two more officers in Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) mental health teams.
AVP feels strongly that an organization with the mandate for enforcement and surveillance has no place expanding its domain to attempt to do mental health support work. These jobs are incompatible. There are hard working and caring organizations and people who already work and volunteer in this city, providing support for various identities and intersections who experience mental health related issues, and these are the folks who have been doing this work for decades. Not just doing the work but researching, adapting, consulting, and evolving their work so it better suits the needs of its clients. These are the folks with the training, life experience, and street communities reputation to do the work and quite frankly where any funding increases should go.
Outreach is about getting out of the office or organization, out on the streets meeting people where they are at building relationships of trust and offering the services of the organization you represent. What services do the Victoria Police have to offer folks who are struggling with this messed up world we live in? Nothing, nor should they – it’s not their mandate.
AVP believes the funding proposal should not be approved because there has been no consultation with the folks who would be targeted (pun intended) by more police joining the ACT team (some AVP staff members work other jobs that have interaction with folks whom this funding proposal affects). The folks whom we are trying to ‘help’ are the experts of what they need and who they trust to provide support. When we ask people if they want police on mental health teams they say “no” every time.
Just as when we work with people who have experienced sexualized violence, we believe them. We believe people when they tell us what they need to heal and what violences they have survived.
We also believe people when they tell us they do not want to engage with police and have zero trust for them. This is not about whether police officers are good people or not, this is about a systemic violence that often have intergenerational effects.