When Vancouver police officer Tyler Chavers was asked if he thought he’d be working mainly with the homeless population near the end of his career, his response was immediate.
“No,” said Chavers, lead and only officer in Vancouver Police Department’s Homeless Assistance Response Team.
The team, aka HART, is new as of January. The police department and city were actively recruiting more people to join, but hiring has halted across city departments due to COVID-19.
As Chavers drove to various homeless camps in Vancouver, he said most people want officers to handle immediate problems. Police want to give new strategies a try, but such efforts can get lost in ongoing social ills and unexpected events like a pandemic. It’s difficult to divorce the two directives, he said.
“There are people who think that responding to everything is achievable by defunding or reallocating our funds. From a citizen’s standpoint, that doesn’t seem like a bad idea. The question becomes: Is the department healthy to begin with? If so, then yes. In the long term, it’d be a good idea,” the officer said.