Story at a glance:
- Several cities have begun experimenting with alternative ways to respond to distress calls, including sending health professionals and crisis workers to respond to mental health emergencies.
- At least eight states are considering mandating mental health training for law enforcement, reported The Associated Press.
- The reforms are part of public calls to defund the police and reallocate the funds to other public services, including mental health treatment.
Angelo Quinto, Daniel Prude and Linden Cameron are just three of the names on the minds of lawmakers in at least eight states who are considering bills that would mandate mental health training for law enforcement, reported The Associated Press.
Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness, according to a Washington Post database. Most interactions with the 1,127 people killed by police in 2020 started as suspected nonviolent offenses or cases where no crime was reported. In 94 of those cases, police were responding to reports of someone behaving erratically or having a mental health crisis.
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State lawmakers in California, New York and Utah, as well as local lawmakers in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina, are all part of the push. Some parts of the country have successfully begun to implement the new reforms, which are riding a wave of support from Black Lives Matter protests to defund the police and reallocate the funds to other public services, including mental health treatment.
In other cases, states are building on existing frameworks. At least 34 states require training or other education for officers when it comes to interacting with people who have physical or mental health conditions, but Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told The Associated Press that much of it is out of date.
“The training that police have received for the past I’d say 25 years has not changed significantly, and it’s out of date, and it doesn’t meet today’s realities,” Wexler told The Associated Press. “I mean the last thing a mother wants when they call the police is for an officer to use force. Especially in a situation that didn’t call for it because the officers weren’t trained in how to recognize a crisis.”
Congressional lawmakers have also proposed a bill to make it easier for state and local governments to defund the police by instead funding mental health services and empowering them to respond to emergency calls instead of armed officers.
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