Ontario’s police watchdog is investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a Mississauga teenager who died following a mental health crisis call to Peel Regional Police, Tuesday.
The province’s Special Investigations Unit (SIU) said the 18-year-old man died three days after he was taken to hospital, after being arrested by Peel police.
The SIU report indicates that around 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 9, Peel police officers were dispatched to a residence in Mississauga as a woman had concerns about a family member.
Before officers arrived at the home, the 18-year-old man fled, the SIU states.
Shortly after, he was located, he was apprehended under the Mental Health Act.
The teen was transported to hospital, where he remained under police guard.
The man was placed in the Intensive Care Unit at around midnight, after his condition deteriorated.
The SIU confirmed that the man died in hospital Friday.
The SIU statement did not address why the man was hospitalized, or what injuries he sustained. Its statement makes no mention of whether the officers deployed use of force such as a Taser or gun.
Peel police say they have no additional information about the man’s cause of death and add that they cannot comment further during an SIU investigation.
“It’s too early for us to know with certainty what caused the man’s death. The post-mortem is tomorrow,” said a spokesperson for the SIU.
Three SIU investigators and one forensic investigator have been assigned to the case.
The post-mortem is scheduled for Feb. 13 in Toronto.
This marks another apparent case of someone dying after being apprehended by Peel police during a mental health crisis call.
In December, The SIU concluded the Peel officer who killed D’Andre Campbell, last April, was acting in self-defence when he shot him inside a Brampton home.
While clearing the officers of criminal wrongdoing, SIU director Joseph Martino however highlighted problems with how the officers handled a person they were told had a history of mental illnesses.
According to the SIU report, the officers were advised Campbell had schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and that, on an earlier police visit, he had not been taking his medication and was aggressive with family members.
“Though they knew that Mr. Campbell suffered from mental illness and was likely in an agitated condition, they did not confer with each other about the approach they would take once inside the home,” Martino wrote.
In an interview with the Star last month, Peel police Dept. Chief Marc Andrews acknowledged recent cases of deaths and injuries following mental health crisis calls in Peel region have not only amplified public frustration about police use of force, but also exposed the need to change provincial legislation that mandates police as first-responders.
“Whenever you criminalize mental health crisis and you do it thousands of times a year, you are inevitably going to have tragedy,” said Andrews, who stressed that police should not be the first source of risk mitigation in non-violent mental health crisis calls.
In January 2020, Peel police teamed up with the Canadian Mental Health Association Peel Dufferin to launch its Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams (MCRRT) that pairs crisis workers with uniform officers.
The approach is garnering support, but officers still respond to most calls without the help of a mental health expert.
Peel’s joint team attended 2,089 of 5,960 mental health crisis calls to police in 2020 — or about 35 per cent of them.
Jason Miller is a Toronto-based reporter for the Star covering crime and justice in the Peel Region. His reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local Journalism Initiative. Reach him on email: firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @millermotionpic
Jason Miller, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Toronto Star