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Maintaining the right
A unique and frightening situation occurred last week. On full display was the RCMP motto of “Maintain the Right.”
A man at a local motel caused a nine-hour police standoff. Special police units were called in, traffic was diverted and neighbouring businesses and passers-by looked on with nervous curiosity.
A mobile command centre was set up. Negotiators began discussions and for about six hours, a mohawked sniper lay still as a statue, one eye glued to his rifle sight.
The man at the centre of the siege was described by the RCMP as clearly emotionally distraught. He had made several comments that concerned the police about public safety and the RCMP took these comments very seriously.
In the end, he was taken into custody and taken to the hospital for psychiatric treatment. No charges are expected to be laid.
Reactions have been mixed about this incident. Shock--that this kind of incident could happen in Cranbrook is an understandable one. Relief--that no one was killed, is another understandable reaction. However, there are a few seemingly inexplicable reactions as well. One is them is frustration that traffic was diverted. Another is that the whole ordeal took too long. Some people found the whole situation humorous. One reaction is that the RCMP should have shot the man.
There also seems to be some disbelief that this individual will probably not be charged.
Well, wishing the man would have been shot is harsh, but also somewhat understandable in that this wish obviously stems from fear. With limited information at the time, who can blame people for just wanting the situation ended, albeit in an extremely final way. But remember, the situation started because an obviously troubled man had threatened the safety of the public. No one was shot at and there haven’t (as yet) been any reports of a gun or other device being used by the individual, so the police let time work for them. That tactic points to experience, training and a respect for life. They surrounded the individual, cordoned off the area and waited. They were ready for anything and had the resources to storm the room, but cooler heads prevailed and no one died.
As for the charges, the RCMP are handling this exactly the same way they handled the whole situation--with professional and expert conduct. This is about a man who, for ease of explanation, lost it. Mental health is something that many have a tenuous grip on at the best of times and you never know what can push a person beyond society’s norms. This man is unfortunate and in this case, scary enough to have a sniper ready to deal with him, but he also has friends and family who care about him. And let’s not forget that the police, who were dealing with him on an extremely personal level during the day judged that he required psychiatric help far more than immediate incarceration.
And yes, our society has, for centuries now, ruled that people with mental health issues need to be treated differently than criminals and in doing so, may become or continue to be productive members of the community. No one plans to have mental health problems.
As for the people who felt the whole situation was about inconveniencing them, or that it was a cause for hilarity, that may have just been another reaction to the fear they were feeling. If not, then the proper emotion following their outbursts should be shame.
In this case, the people of Cranbrook, including the man holed up in the motel, should feel that their rights have been maintained.