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Paramedics in BC say officers protect them during their 'darkest times' amid calls to defund police

Citynews 1130 Vancouver

Last Updated Jul 12, 2020 at 1:56 pm PDT

A B.C. ambulance paramedic is seen outside the Lions Gate Hospital in North Vancouver, B.C. Monday, March 23, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Summary

Ambulance Paramedics of BC argue police are required for everyone’s protection amid calls to defund police

The union says officers assist and protect paramedics on calls multiple times a day

A spokesperson of Pivot Legal Society says this reactionary response from paramedics is harmful

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Paramedics in BC say they need law enforcement to do their job safely amid calls to defund the police in the province.

In a statement posted on its website, Ambulance Paramedics of BC says in the midst of increased focus of policing, there’s been an increase in statements and positions not based on empirical evidence or fact, but on an emotional response.

“The level of negativity towards peace and police officers in British Columbia has also risen dramatically, including social media postings, protests and verbal abuse at police officer’s places of work and even activities that, at any other place of employment or public space, would be considered inappropriate at best and harassment by most,” the release reads.

The union adds multiple times every day, officers assist and protect paramedics on calls — many of which are related to mental health emergencies.

“While we do not condone racism or abuse of power, vilifying the men and women who put on a uniform every day and are asked to protect citizens and promote order is not productive, nor beneficial in addressing the issues,” the release continues. “The overwhelming majority of peace and police officers go to work every day to serve and protect in extremely difficult and challenging work environments with integrity and pride.”

The union adds, while it advocated for patients in crisis to receive greater access to mental health and addiction professionals,” the fact is, many of these calls are volatile and potentially violent and require law enforcement intervention for everyone’s protection.”

“There were systemic issues with police prior to 2020”

Meenakshi Mannoe with Pivot Legal Society says this is a reactionary take from paramedics that intentionally misinterprets calls to defund the police.

“There were systemic issues with police prior to 2020, to ignore all of that and put out this statement, does not serve our communities.”

Mannoe tells NEWS 1130 the call to defund police is sometimes misunderstood.

“And I think in this case, it’s intentionally misunderstood,” she says. “And I think that that really negates the experience that many black indigenous racialized disabled people have with police.”

She adds that the union’s response is an example of the “racism prejudice bias and stigma” within the healthcare sector.

Mannoe explains defunding police means to look at the “drastically increasing police budgets,” examine how the money is distributed to better redistribute to peers.

“People with lived experience … some level of healthcare and social services and of course just basic housing and furnishing those kinds of conditions would actually do a lot to manage the volatile situations that paramedics may be entering.”

Last month, Vancouver city councillors Pete Fry and Christine Boyle said they’ve received thousands of emails calling on the police to be defunded and to put money into other social support programs.