Mental health is a major focus of the Alberta Association of Chiefs of Police.
More than 80 police leaders and partners from across the province are attending the association’s annual two-day fall conference at the Radisson Hotel in Red Deer.
The theme for this year’s event, which began Wednesday, is police response to mental illness.
The conference is designed to build awareness, understanding and empathy for police interactions with people in crisis. The aim is to increase understanding of the complexity of mental illness and the diversity of response options.
“It’s about how we’re dealing with the mental health of our officers,” said Dale McFee, association president and Edmonton Police Service chief.
“But it’s also about dealing with those calls of service, which is a high number when you call mental health and addictions, and what we’re doing to get that individual in that first instance into some services or some effective help that can reduce the number of times they come into the justice system. Or in some cases, get them out of the justice systems.”
McFee said attendees discuss “what we can do to break the cycles, and maybe even sometimes, change our approach to get a better outcome versus just (utilizing) the justice system.”
Mental health isn’t the only important discussion at the conference, McFee added.
“It’s a chance for us to have those frank discussions with them: what can we collectively do together, how we can use our resources more effectively together. But also what partners we need and how we need to work differently … and some of it is just about the business … and what’s coming at us.
“Obviously, there are budget issues right now, there are different aspects to that. This conference gives a chance for us to spend some time with colleagues and work on the business, rather than in the business, so you’re best prepared of what comes our way.”