Kamloops RCMP officers made insensitive comments about a man suffering an overdose, while another Mountie recorded an apparent social media video at the Merit Place homeless shelter in Southgate.
In an emailed statement, to KTW, Kamloops RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley confirmed the incidents took place and that he and the detachment’s professional standards unit reviewed the two complaints from the CMHA.
“The complaints were taken very seriously,” Pelley’s statement reads. “A review was conducted and the performance concerns were addressed with the responding officers under our public complaints procedures and protocols. One of the complaints was resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant and we expect resolution of the second one shortly.”
The executive director of the shelter operator, the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), is hoping the relationship with the Kamloops RCMP will improve following the investigations and an apology.
Reading from a pair of staff reports, CMHA executive Alfred Achoba told KTW the incidents with police took place on March 25 and April 4. Police respond regularly to the shelter as part of the emergency response of paramedics and firefighters attending the scene of an overdose.
“I think it speaks to some of the systemic issues we’ve heard with officers and the need for more humanity and empathy,” Achoba said of the incidents, which were first reported by Infotel.
On April 4, Achoba said, three Kamloops RCMP officers, two men and a woman, attended Merit Place, the former Greyhound depot, as part of an overdose call and used insensitive language toward the person overdosing.
Achoba said staff overheard the Mounties comment that the nasal naloxone should be kept for themselves or people who matter, that the overdose victim smelled “like shit” and that it was a waste to use the naloxone kit on the person.
One of the officers responded “Not all of us” after a paramedic told the overdose victim there were people in the shelter concerned for his well-being.
CMHA shelter staff eventually asked the officers to leave if they were not going to help and only make things worse, Achoba told KTW.
“Just very insensitive comments,” he said, adding the lack of empathy shown to the overdose victim has left shelter staff hesitant to call RCMP for help.
Achoba said the RCMP’s professional standards unit sent him an apology on behalf of the three officers shortly after he reported the April 4 incident to police. He said one of the male officers returned to the shelter at Notre Dame Drive and Laval Crescent to apologize for his comments.
Days earlier, on March 25, Achoba said, a male officer attended an overdose call at the shelter and staff saw him recording a video on Snapchat — an instant messaging app known for producing multimedia that is only available for a short time and automatically erased shortly after being sent.
Achoba said the officer appeared to be recording shelter users and/or the inside of the shelter, noting the officer’s actions were captured by the building’s in-house security camera system. Achoba said he contacted Kamloops RCMP Supt. Jeff Pelley and asked for an investigation, noting he sent Pelley video from the in-house security camera system as evidence.
Achoba said he does not believe it is standard procedure for an officer to record video when no crime had occurred, arguing the officer breached the privacy of the shelter and its users.
“My hope is that, over the next week or so, I should hear back as to the result of the investigation,” he said.
Achoba said the officer was said to have been on scene for about 40 minutes before he started recording and was spotted in the building by staff recording another video days after the incident.
Achoba said he has been privy to many similar incidents of what he said is police lacking professionalism with shelter users. He said conversations around police empathy and professionalism need to be had to move forward with the Kamloops RCMP.
Achoba said he understands how officers can endure frustration on the job, but maintained that irritation need not be directed at people suffering from addiction.
KTW asked for copies of the incident reports, but Achoba declined the request due to privacy issues and the fact the March 25 incident is still under investigation.
RCMP Cpl. Crystal Evelyn said police are not disputing the content of the complaints and confirmed the Professional Standards Unit issued an apology, and added that Supt. PElley contacted the CMHA and apologized as well.
She did not however, specify whether any of the officers involved in the incidents have been suspended or explained how or if any may have been reprimanded for their actions.
Pelley said police presence at Merit Place is a regular occurrence, mostly for non-criminal, medical issues, due to ongoing safety concerns from paramedics, which has led to them requiring police attendance before they will enter the building to respond to a medical call.
Pelley said no further complaints from Achoba have been received since the April 4 incident.
“We are disappointed this occurred and continuously work toward improving our professionalism in the community. We continue to hold ourselves to the highest standards and expect the same of our community partners,” Pelley said.
Despite hesitation from his staff, Achoba said he is confident police professionalism will improve under Pelley, noting he has received that assurance from the city’s top cop.
Once the second investigation wraps up, Achoba said he will request a meeting with Pelley on how to move forward.
BC Housing recently extended the Merit Place shelter’s lease though March 31, 2025, though the CMHA has signed on for only one more year of operating the facility.