RCMP take a man into custody at Sunrise Pharmacy on Main Street Friday morning. The pharmacy owner and RCMP differ on the use of the panic button to notify police of the incident. Mark Brett/Western News

Police say use of panic button unnecessary at Penticton pharmacy

Pharmacist should have used 911 or non-emergency numbers

When should a panic alarm be used to notify police?

Pharmacist Joelle Mbamy and RCMP Supt. Ted De Jager have differing opinions on the matter, following an incident Friday morning when a man allegedly tried to fill forged prescriptions at Sunrise Pharmacy.

Mbamy, the pharmacist and owner, and her daughter Donna Mbamy-Conci, were working that morning when they say a man came in on two different occasions with prescriptions for pain medication.

Mbamy, after verifying with the doctor whose prescriptions were being used that he had not written them and concerned for her safety, pushed the panic button to alert police.

Related:UPDATE: Forged prescriptions prompt Penticton RCMP response

The man was taken into custody a short time later but what upset Mbamy and her daughter were comments from one of the police officers who she claimed told her the situation did not constitute an emergency and if they did something similar again there may be consequences.

“They’re (RCMP) telling us ‘forged prescription that’s nothing, why would you even bother pushing the panic button, we are rushing to come here,’ of course you should rush to come here and they are telling us ‘if you push again then (you) are at risk we won’t come or you’ll be charged with mischief,’” said Mbamy-Conci. “The police are angry and say we shouldn’t be pushing the panic button in a state of alarm because they don’t consider this an emergency where nation-wide when something like this happens it is the most serious emergency in a pharmacy.

“This is narcotics, you shouldn’t need to prove it (emergency) by somebody getting shot.”

Added Mbamy: “And if something should happen to me, what would the police do? The most they would do would be to put some red tape around here if I’m dead.”

However De Jager feels it would have been more appropriate for one of the women to have gone in the back and call the non-emergency or 911 instead of pushing the panic button.

“What happens when someone pushes a panic alarm at a bank or business or anybody else is every available police car comes code three, what we call lights and sirens,” said De Jager. “Lights and sirens under any circumstance puts the member and the public in jeopardy and we accept that risk to ensure that we get somewhere quickly.

“We have quite an aggressive response to that as well we should because if somebody is in grave danger only to attend there and find that it was actually allegedly only a stolen prescription pad.”

He added: “So that is what I would suggest is why the member would have said that to her, it’s basically a false alarm.”

According to De Jager not confronting the man and simply letting him go and allowing police to investigate afterwards with video and description would avoid any potential conflict.

“So again 911 would have been totally appropriate if she felt that way but a panic alarm is one level up from 911 and it’s a very deliberate response,” he said. “Essentially it’s a theft, I recognize that he’s trying to get drugs and medication which is fully under the control of the pharmacist but at the end of the day it’s a stolen prescription pad.

“To put that in perspective if the members are on the other side of town they’d be coming with lights and sirens as fast as they possibly could and the potential is always elevated. Even though people 99 per cent of the time, they see lights and sirens coming they pull over and but it’s that one per cent that’s always on the mind of that member when they’re going through an intersection.”

At this stage police say charges have not been forwarded on the matter.

To report a typo, email: editor@pentictonwesternnews.com.


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