Jury calls for more police psychologists, mental health training following Steven Rigby inquest

Steven Rigby’s family said they hope his death can improve the way police and health-care system treat mental health and addictions.

Rigby was killed Dec. 22, 2018, in a police-involved shooting on the outskirts of Saskatoon.

On Friday at the inquest probing his death, the jury made 10 recommendations to the provincial health authority, Saskatoon Police Service (SPS) and RCMP, meant to help prevent similar critical incidents from happening in the future.

Read more: Officer says RCMP and Saskatoon police gave Steven Rigby conflicting info during standoff

For police, the jury recommended more training and resources into one centralized communication system between the two agencies, as well as more mental health training for officers and staff.

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Further, the recommendations said “to consider a mandatory and quickened, within one to two weeks, discuss/check-in of individual officers with (a) psychologist after a critical incident” and psychologists should be included in critical incident debriefs.

Click to play video: 'Officer says communication between police issue leading up to death of Steven Rigby' Officer says communication between police issue leading up to death of Steven Rigby

Officer says communication between police issue leading up to death of Steven Rigby

The jury wanted SPS to hire more psychologists and to increase training and availability of less-lethal weapons. Lawyers representing Rigby’s family during the inquest repeatedly asked whether less-lethal options, such as bean bag shotguns, could have been used instead.

The jury said it wants SPS senior administrators and officers to look into technological remote surveillance to improve communication between headquarters and officers on-site.

Ways to record every crisis negotiation should also be explored, according to the jury, something a crisis negotiator previously testified is typically done.

Read more: Crisis negotiator, psychiatrist speak during inquest into police shooting death of Steven Rigby

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Due to a number of factors during the incident involving Rigby, the conversation between Saskatoon and Rigby wasn’t recorded.

For the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA), the jury said it wants more training spots for psychiatrists in the province.

“Increase allocated resources into centralizing health records with e-health for ease of access by physicians, psychologists and psychiatrists,” the jury said.

Click to play video: 'Friends recount Steven Rigby’s battles with mental health ahead of police shooting death' Friends recount Steven Rigby’s battles with mental health ahead of police shooting death

Friends recount Steven Rigby’s battles with mental health ahead of police shooting death

Rigby was seen by doctors both in North Battleford and Saskatoon several times for suicide attempts in the months leading up to the fatal encounter with police.

Doctors who treated him testified they didn’t always have a full record of his past suicide attempts at the time they discharged him, as getting them from different hospitals in different cities can be difficult.

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The jury said it also wants to explore the idea of a program between social workers and the SHA to help people who are suffering from mental health and addiction issues at the same time, as Rigby was.

Steven didn’t die for nothing

Rigby’s mother spoke with reporters following the recommendations. She said she hopes her son’s death changes how addictions and mental health are handled in Saskatchewan.

“I just hope people look back and reflect on the mistakes, the gaps, the cracks in each system and try to make it better,” Carey Rigby-Wilcox said.

“We needed something good to come out of this … Steven didn’t die for nothing.”

Carey Rigby-Wilcox said she hopes her son’s death creates change. Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/Global News

Rigby-Wilcox said she’d like to see more beds at the Dubé Centre for Mental Health at Royal University Hospital.

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In December 2018 her son was discharged from the hospital after being involuntarily committed, following concerns from his family. He died two days later.

Read more: Friends recount Steven Rigby’s battles with mental health ahead of police shooting death

She said she hopes the recommendations are implemented as soon as possible, but said there’s still more work to be done in Saskatchewan.

Rigby-Wilcox said she’d like to see a program started in her son’s honour.

If you or someone you know is in crisis and needs help, please reach out. Resources are available. In case of an emergency, please call 911 for immediate help.

The Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention, Depression Hurts and Kids Help Phone 1-800-668-6868 all offer ways of getting help if you, or someone you know, may be suffering from mental health issues.

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