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Defunding police may not be effective: UWO researcher

Dr. Laura Huey says it's not clear whether sending social workers to calls will change the outcome of police calls
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One Canadian researcher is taking a closer look at whether defunding the police will actually lead to better outcomes when it comes to searching for missing people.

Dr. Laura Huey is a Professor of Sociology at Western University.

She said their research shows that there are a lot of social issues and criminal matters that have an underlying mental health issue.

"For example, if I get into a domestic violence situation at home and somebody calls the police, the police think they are coming into a domestic violence situation -- they may or may not know that there are any underlying health issues involved," she told Kitchener Today with Brian Bourke on 570 NEWS.

"And yet, what we expect them to do is immediately on the scene, deescalate the situation when they're actually working themselves in an environment where they don't have all the facts."

Huey noted police can receive a number of different types of calls associated with mental health issues.

"Weapons offenses, thefts under $5,000, as well as mischief and property damage," she listed, "What we're now in the process of doing is pulling a bunch of calls that came in to different police services and starting to unpack the extent to which these calls also have a mental health component."

Huey said she's been working with a police service that's been experimenting with developing a 24-hour service, to help pair officers with social service workers.

"We'd have to have a really good evaluation to show that it actually works," she added, "We do know that some mental health crisis intervention teams do show good results in terms of deescalating."

"They deal with a very small fraction of the overall call volume that police services get."

However, she concluded it's not clear whether sending social workers to calls will change the outcome of police calls.

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