An Indigenous woman was mistreated by Winnipeg police during a mental health crisis earlier this week, an organization representing First Nations people in southern Manitoba says, and they are asking for a full investigation.
The Southern Chiefs Organization alleges two women were driving on the Redwood Bridge on Monday afternoon when they saw a woman in obvious distress, the group said in a release. She had a noose around her neck and looked as though she was preparing to jump off the bridge.
The women, Jasmine Smith and her colleague, Angela Desrosiers, stopped on the bridge to help the woman, as they are trained in trauma-informed care. They also called 911 for help.
As Smith and Desrosiers were talking the woman down and offering support, Winnipeg police arrived. SCO says the officers began “swearing at and berating the woman,” and she ended up jumping off the bridge.
“I wish I could say I was shocked by this kind of news about the [Winnipeg Police Service] and how they treat our people,” SCO Grand Chief Jerry Daniels said in a release. “While this latest story comes as no surprise, I will do everything I can to once again seek answers for the people I represent and all Winnipeggers who rely on having an accountable police force.”‘
The officers were able to cut the rope and bring the woman down from the bridge before she died.
SCO says Smith and Desrosiers filed an incident report, which includes the attending police officers’ badge numbers. They also filed an official complaint with the police.
“They have more than done their part,” Daniels said. “Now it is up to First Nations and all Indigenous leadership to demand answers and the systemic changes our people so desperately need.”
Winnipeg police Const. Rob Carver said in an email that officers arrived on the scene after the woman had jumped.
“The officer’s quick and decisive actions brought this individual to safety. One officer lifted underneath her feet to relieve her body weight, while the other officer cut the rope,” he wrote.
SCO is concerned that the woman who attempted suicide was arrested, rather than given medical attention.
Carver says because traffic was backed up along the bridge, it was difficult for the ambulance to get close enough.
He says the woman was taken to an accessible parking lot over the bridge, where the ambulance was able to meet them, and the woman was taken to hospital in stable condition.
Carver says police don’t have any further comment regarding allegations of racism or what SCO calls a “disturbing” response to an Indigenous woman in distress.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts or having a mental health crisis, there is help out there. Contact the Manitoba Suicide Prevention and Support Line toll-free at 1-877-435-7170 (1-877-HELP170) or the Kids Help Phone at 1-800-668-6868. You can also text CONNECT to 686868 and get immediate support from a crisis responder through the Crisis Text Line, powered by Kids Help Phone.