July 11th, 2007
There is arguably nothing more rewarding for a documentary filmmaker than to have a film become part of a political process.
This afternoon, we showed an excerpt of The Interventionists at a Toronto Police Services Board meeting. They run the police in our city. (When he introduced us, the Chair of the Board revealed he had attended our premiere at the Rendez Vous with Madness festival last fall. I had no idea!)
Dr. Ian Dawe, my co-presenter, then made a compelling argument for three recommendations to the Board about Mobile Crisis Intervention Teams.
1) Equal access to services across the city (there’s still big areas in the city without service)
2) Extension of hours of operation of the teams
3) Using the film to build awareness around mental heath throughout Police Services
Vice-Chair Pam McConnell said that the film “Gives us all a peek into not only the crises, but into the skills needed to do this important work.” She also talked about the need for proper supportive housing to prevent mental health crises from escalating in the first place.
Then, she moved to adopt a resolution in principle for all three recommendations, and to ask the Police Chief review and report on the current MCITs in the city, with a view to adjust the operational budget accordingly.
Police Chief Blair said the team has “proven its value” and that the Police are already actively looking to extend the reach.
The resolution passed unanimously.
Interestingly, we are cited in another item on today’s agenda. John Sewell of the Toronto Police Accountability Coalition sent a letter to the Board reacting to the Police Chief’s recent request to purchase 3,000 tasers for 8.5 million dollars.
Sewell writes: “We note the Board will receive a presentation on the film ‘The Interventionists’ … We believe that the best way to respond to the kind of crises which provoke Taser use, is through such units. Currently, units are not available 24 hours a day throughout the city — they are used in only a few divisions, and only until 11 pm. The issue is money, and as our group has urged in the past, money is better spent on Mobile Crisis Units than on Tasers.”
And as we were leaving, the Board was about to discuss another very sad, related matter: the Police response to the Jury Recommendations from the Coroner’s Inquest into the Death of Otto Vass. Vass, diagnosed with bi-polar disorder, died while being taken into custody forcefully by the police in 2000.
That was the year the MCIT was just getting started. But, alas on the southeast side of town, not in the west where this event occurred. So there was no chance of ever finding out if MCIT might have prevented such a tragic outcome.