Professor Akwasi Owusu-Bempah recently spoke to the Toronto Star about the movement to defund police in favour of community organizations especially in the cases of mental health calls. We have included an excerpt of the article below. Professor Owusu-Bempah is an Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto, with teaching responsibilities at the UT Mississauga campus. His research focuses on the intersection of race, policing and justice.
‘Defunding’ police, funding mental health resources will save lives, experts say
The death of a Toronto woman who fell from her 24th-floor balcony while police were in her home has renewed calls for an overhaul of how society deals with people in mental health crises.
Some experts believe “defunding” police — taking some of the taxpayer money going to law enforcement and putting it towards mental health services — is one way to avoid deadly interactions between officers and people struggling with mental illness.
The blowback follows the death last week of Regis Korchinski-Paquet, a 29-year-old woman whose family asked police to take her to a mental health hospital. Police have said they were responding to an assault call, but the family has questioned the role of Toronto officers in her death. The province’s police watchdog has taken over the case.
“I think it’s unfortunate we’ve come to a place in our society that police become first responders to people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,” said Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
“What we should do is take back that money, to defund police, and give it over to mental health professionals who are better equipped to help these people.”