Police should not be called to deal with people in personal distress or experiencing mental health issues. This is becoming increasingly clear to many as such situations almost inevitably seem to end with the distressed person being killed by cops conditioned to expect the worst in everyone or trained to act on a “comply or die” basis in which any affront to their authority is grounds for immediate execution. Police forces across Canada are killing people experiencing distress on a regular basis. And so often they do so in cases where the distressed person is confined to an indoor setting posing no possible threat to the public. And usually no health care support personnel (doctors, nurses, caregivers, counselors, etc.) are involved.
On Thursday, October 6, 2016, Sûreté du Québec (SQ) police officers shot and killed 29-year-old Danny Lafrance-Godmer during a police invasion of a home on Saint François Xavier Street in Montebello, Québec. Police were apparently responding to a call about a man in distress. They entered the home, eventually going into the attic where they encountered the man identified now as Danny Lafrance-Godmer. It is not clear why, given that police knew Lafrance-Godmer to be in distress and confined to an attic space where he posed no possible threat to the public, the force did not arrange for health care providers to be present to communicate with the man. Instead police engaged the victim immediately and shot him, killing him.
Few details have been released by the bureau des enquêtes indépendentes du Quebec (BEI), the relatively new agency that investigates cases of injuries or death involving police in the province. The bureau has assigned nine investigators to examine the case but has a curious policy of relying upon other police forces should they determine they need additional support. In this case they have said they will call upon the Montréal police. This raises real questions about the independence, autonomy, and, finally, legitimacy of any investigation undertaken under such circumstances.