Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Heavy police response to woman in mental health crisis ends without violence

Police were on Pandora Ave for nearly eight hours on Sunday night

By Brishti Basu
August 29, 2022
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Heavy police response to woman in mental health crisis ends without violence

Police were on Pandora Ave for nearly eight hours on Sunday night

By Brishti Basu
Aug 29, 2022
Photo: Ryan Moen
Photo: Ryan Moen
Latest News
News
Based on facts either observed and verified firsthand by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Heavy police response to woman in mental health crisis ends without violence

Police were on Pandora Ave for nearly eight hours on Sunday night

By Brishti Basu
August 29, 2022
Get the news and events in Victoria, in your inbox every morning.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Heavy police response to woman in mental health crisis ends without violence

On Monday afternoon, Alex Ward was sitting on a patch of grass by the McDonald’s on Pandora Avenue, in the same place she was when about two dozen Victoria police officers surrounded her the night before. 

The Victoria Police Department says it was responding to callers who reported that Ward had made “concerning remarks” to passersby and was “stabbing the ground with a knife.” Officers stayed on site for almost eight hours and “partially evacuated” nearby businesses, according to police’s statement. 

The incident was resolved around 1:30am on Monday morning, police said, after “hours” of police “working with the person.” Police say officers on-scene connected the person in crisis “with resources and supports and cleared the scene.” 

But some who witnessed the hours-long incident are criticizing the police department for its armed response—and, they claim, for not letting support workers or people who knew the individual in crisis talk to them.

Support Your Community, Support Local Journalism

With paid membership, every penny goes directly to helping our newsroom continue its work and helps our team grow and expand our coverage

Become an Insider

‘Very intimidating’

Ward suffers from PTSD and told Capital Daily she has been unhoused and living on the 900 block of Pandora since October 2021.

“They came at her with full armaments and treated her like she was a terrorist about to set off an explosive,” said Sandy Fisher, who witnessed part of police’s response.

Sarah Murray, executive director of the North Park Neighbourhood Association, was cycling through the area when she happened upon the cordoned-off intersection at about 8pm Sunday night.

“The part that I found to be very intimidating, if I had been that person having a mental health crisis, was the number of rifles that were being drawn,” Murray said. “Whether they were beanbag guns or what, I don't exactly know…but the artillery [that] was on display seemed to be really intimidating to me.”

In the two and half hours Murray stayed at the scene, she did not see any mental health support workers on site. Officers refused to answer her when she asked whether anyone trained in mental health work was available.

“I did call a few people because I was kind of upset by the response and not seeing what mental health supports were available to her there,” Murray said. 

By 8:30pm, she says four outreach workers were on site ready to help Ward, armed with water, cigarettes, and sour gummies. But over the two hours they waited, police did not accept their request to work with Ward. 

It remains unclear how the situation was resolved at 1:30am on Monday morning. VicPD said there were no arrests or injuries, and that they connected Ward with supports. 

“I would love to know what supports were available at 1:30 in the morning on a Monday versus earlier on a Sunday evening,” Murray said. “I'm happy that it was a peaceful resolution, but I'm not sure how it improved that woman's situation—the seven hours of police intervention.”

For Murray, this type of police response to a mental health crisis is an example of why a Peer Assisted Crisis Team (PACT) is necessary in Victoria.

PACT, a one-year pilot project set to launch next month, is a team of two—a peer worker and a mental health responder—that will respond to some mental health calls and then decide whether police assistance is necessary. 

“I would love to have seen a less rigid police response that would have allowed some room to make use of the incredible expertise that was standing on hand, ready to help,” Murray said. 

VicPD has not responded to Capital Daily’s questions about this incident.

—With files from Cam Welch and Martin Bauman

Support Your Community, Support Local Journalism

With paid membership, every penny goes directly to helping our newsroom continue its work and helps our team grow and expand our coverage

Become an Insider

Related News

Inner Harbour terminal proposal has backing of local tourism, business associations
Stay connected to your city with the Capital Daily newsletter.
By filling out the form above, you agree to receive emails from Capital Daily. You can unsubscribe at any time.