Friday, February 7, 2014

Let Me Tell You about Dave

"Dave" is a pseudonym, used to protect the identity of the person the story is about.

Three days after Christmas police were called to remove someone who was no longer welcome. A friend had taken in Dave over the holidays and when we arrived he was so drunk that he could not speak or walk. For Dave’s friend, this behavior was outrageous and meant the end of the generosity. This was not unusual for the police, nor was it unusual for Dave.

As a matter of fact, Dave had been released from the hospital only an hour earlier where he had been taken after drinking himself into unconsciousness that morning.

Dave is one of our local street people and he suffers from mental health and addiction issues. The following is a snap-shot of what Dave’s life has been like since Christmas based solely on his interactions with the police.

We called for an ambulance that evening and Dave was taken back to the hospital where he could receive the appropriate care for his immediate condition. Gone are the days of lodging him in a cold, cell because nobody else would care for him.

Six hours later we were called to a local drug store where Dave was highly intoxicated and trying to steal Listerine. The store security recognized the futility of trying to proceed with criminal charges and merely wanted him removed.

An ambulance was called for the third time this day and the paramedics examined Dave. They determined that, although very intoxicated, he did not require hospitalization. We disagreed.

So, off to the hospital Dave went in the back of a police car. Once there the doctor examined him and cleared him of any immediate medical concerns, other than being extremely drunk. Dave was not welcome.

Back to the cold, cell for Dave… I was wrong.

The next afternoon, we were called to a local fast food restaurant for a male sleeping at one of the tables. Staff knew the man, knew his violent temper, and were afraid to wake him.

Dave had been wandering around since his release from cells with no place to go and only the clothes on his back. He wandered in to the restaurant for some warmth and just fell asleep.

We called around to the local emergency shelters but they all knew Dave. He was not welcome.

We drove him to a place where he thought, maybe, a friend would take him in. We dropped him off and he said something rude.

Later that evening history repeated itself and a waitress called from a local restaurant because a male had passed out a table. This time Dave had enjoyed a full dinner and several drinks before lapsing into unconsciousness. He had no money and the waitress paid for his meal out of her tips.

Dave was barely conscious and the ambulance was rerouted to another, higher priority, emergency call. We transported him to the hospital and learned that this was his second visit of the day. His level of consciousness was decreasing and, this time, he stayed where he could be cared for.

The next day, one of the local shelters called us. Dave had snuck in, unnoticed, and was now unconscious, barely breathing, on their floor. We arrived, along with paramedics, and he was taken back to the hospital.

Bright and early the next morning a taxi driver pulled up to the front of the police station. He had picked up a fare at the hospital that was now unconscious in the front seat of his cab. How Dave had managed to drink himself into unconsciousness in a taxi between the hospital and the police station is still unknown, but there he was. The ambulance was called and back to the hospital he went.

Six hours later a citizen saw an intoxicated man fall down on the road and hit his head. Dave had an almost empty bottle of Listerine in a death grip, stunk of liquor, and was taken back to the hospital.

We didn't see Dave the next day.

Perhaps it was because he had passed out in the darkness behind a dumpster where nobody could see him. That’s where he was found.

In the past two days three warrants had been approved for Dave’s arrest for failing to pay for food or for stealing food. He was taken to the hospital where he was cared for until sober enough to be arrested. Dave was then taken to cells where he was held until the next morning for a bail hearing.

Dave did five days in jail.

Once released, we received a call that he had snuck back into one of the shelters. Again, he was so intoxicated that he had fallen and cut his head. The paramedics attended and took him back to the hospital for the third time that day.

The next day he was back, sitting on the sidewalk, in front of the shelter, and still unwelcome. He had been put in a taxi at the hospital and delivered to the shelter that wouldn't allow him in. He was wearing a thin blazer, and hospital pajamas. We called around to shelters and hotels trying to find someplace for him. He had burned all those bridges and as soon as his name was mentioned the doors closed to him.

We came by the station and outfitted him with winter jacket, hoodie, jeans, and a wool blanket from the supply of donations kept on hand from our members for occasions of this sort. We then took him to a local fast food restaurant and bought him a coffee. Dave was sober and friendly and unusually pleasant to deal with. That’s where we left him. It was 1:30 am.

At 7:15 am one of our members patrolling downtown saw two males in a make-shift campsite. One was fine while the other, Dave, was not. He had been consuming prescription medication and Listerine and was quickly deteriorating. An ambulance was called and he was transported to the hospital.

It wasn’t until 4:15 pm that Dave reappeared on our radar. He was intoxicated and refusing to leave a fast food restaurant. Perhaps it was because he was so drunk he couldn't walk. Back to the hospital he went.

At 9:30 pm Dave was back at the same fast food restaurant, intoxicated, he had fallen again, splitting open his head injury from the previous day. This had been a bad day by anybody’s standards and back to the hospital he went.

Two days later Dave surfaced in Saanich where the Saanich Police were called to a restaurant for an intoxicated male. The paramedics had examined him and deemed that he did not require medical attention. Dave was lodged in cells because he was too intoxicated to care for himself.

Just after midnight Dave was back downtown at a fast food restaurant passed out a table. We couldn't wake him and the ambulance was called. Back to the hospital he went.

Six days went by without a sign of Dave.

Then, out of the blue, we received a call from Dave’s daughter. She lives in another part of the country and she was worried about her dad, as children sometimes do. They had grown apart over the years due to his mental health, addictions, and the turmoil of emotions that surrounds them. For some unexplained reason she had simply become “anxious” about his well-being and wanted to find him. She couldn't explain why and had no idea of his current situation.

Our officer promised her that he would find her dad.

It didn't take long and Dave was located, chemically sedated and locked down due to his violent outbursts, at the hospital.  He was now considered at a high risk to die as a result of his lifestyle. Dave had expressed a willingness to attend addiction counselling upon his release but, he’d done that before. He had learned, long ago, that saying the right things would get him out the door where he could go on doing whatever he wanted.

Our member recognized that now was the time to reach out to our community partners and find a way to save Dave, whether he wanted saving or not. He was scheduled for a court appearance and, with everyone working together, Dave could be put in front of a Judge, and we could seek a court ordered rehabilitation program.

This came to be and Dave found himself in front of a Judge who knew him well. The court deemed that a condition to attend, and participate in, counselling was justified. In response, Dave made it perfectly clear that he had no intention to stop drinking and that he believed counselling didn't work.

He was released.

The message from his daughter was passed along to Dave.

The following day Dave called us himself. He wanted to go to the hospital. Things were beginning to change.

Two days later we received another unusual call. Dave was at the hospital, sober, and refusing to leave. He wanted help.

It was midnight and he was at the emergency ward with no “real” emergent medical need. Due to his history of violence and abuse towards the hospital staff, he wasn't welcome.

Again, we tried all the shelters and no one would take him in. Dave didn't appear to understand why. We tried to explain to him how his long running rampage of anti-social behavior, violence, and abuse, had brought him to where he was. There was nothing we could do for him. He had to leave.

Twelve hours later Dave was back at the hospital having consumed glycerin, he was unsteady on his feet but otherwise functioning well. However, now he was refusing to accept any treatment and wanted to leave. We arrived and negotiated a peaceful settlement. Dave left a little later having been cleared medically.

Later that evening, Dave was found outside a downtown market vomiting from all the Listerine he had consumed. The Victoria Fire Department was there and paramedics attended to take him to the hospital.

He was released from the hospital three hours later wearing his blazer and hospital pajamas. We picked him up and restocked him with warm clothes, a scarf, and a blanket. Again we tried the shelters and this time one graciously allowed Dave to stay for one night, and one night only.

The next evening Dave came back to the same shelter despite being told he could only stay for the one night. He was sober and looking for help. For the first time he said he was “getting too old to sleep outside”. He agreed to leave but wanted to try back later in the night to see if he could stay.

Two days later Dave was unwanted again at the shelter that had helped him. When we arrived he was sober. We gave him a lift to a different shelter for a hot meal. Where he was going to spend the night, he did not know.

Since appearing before the Judge, Dave’s behavior had changed. A number of partner agencies had been brought in to provide assistance and, for the first time in a long time, Dave was listening.

Four days later, Dave had a bus ticket. It’s quite possibly a ticket that could save his life. It will take him out of Victoria to an Addiction Treatment Center.

This is a sample of twenty-four police interactions with Dave from Christmas until the end of January. There are 539 interactions on file. Dave has multiple warrants for his arrest in two western provinces including two mental health warrants for his apprehension. None of these warrants are enforceable in British Columbia.


  1. Thank you to all the officers who kept trying to help this man Dave. I do not know this Dave personally, but I do know someone this 'could' easily have been if he had not found his sobriety. I am not going to go on about a lot of stuff we all already know because it is not my point. My point is that people tend to forget that the Police deal with situations like this and others that are equally as hard or harder quite often, they are first and sometimes even sadly last contact for many people like Dave. The Police are more than just a badge and gun.

  2. Thank you for this unbiased and sincere description of your work with one of the many people who require attention and help in our city. I will try to help see that this is widely read.

  3. God Bless the police forces. They join because they have the heart to serve. They deserve the same respect as any priest or physician. They put their lives on the line for us and our children.

  4. Thank you for taking the time to document this tragic story. Dave and others like him are alive thanks to the dedication and kindness of police, ambulance and hospital staff.

  5. The daily cost of 'not housing' Dave in the community is millions. The cost of 'recovery beds' and 'locked asylums' is a pittance by comparison. The state has cut off it's nose to spite its face. We don't need ER Doctors and Police doing Dave's care or a judge 'ruling'. There is a 'public health' epidemic called 'addiction' and the state is not addressing the present problem but threatening to increase it with 'legalization of marijuana'. That means more 'Daves'. The more accessible the substance, the more abuse. Heroin Injection Sites means more heroin IV when we need more abstinent recovery beds, drug courts, and treatment centres and the requirement that 'civil rights lawyers' personally house a Dave before any more silliness. Dave is a slave to the religion of addiction. He's not a free man and what he needs is treatment not 'civil rights lawyers'. Two of my Dave's died this year because the ER turned them away and they only had drug dealers to go to. The drug dealers are the ones police should be dealing with, not the victims like Dave. The police are wonderful but it's the system that is shameful.

  6. Hey VicPD, there's a typo in the address of your blog. It says "stroies" instead of stories and it is probably resulting in fewer people being able to access your content. The name with the correct spelling is still available if you want to transfer over to that.