Protect Mentally Ill Suspects With Crisis Intervention Instead of Deadly Force

Target: Chuck Schumer, Senate Majority Leader

Goal: Support better crisis intervention for police responses involving a mentally ill person.

A disturbing incident in Florida saw a woman allegedly throw a German shepherd from a motel balcony in front of police. The dog, now named Miracle, fortunately survived and was later adopted. The woman in the case faces animal cruelty charges, but could this apparent near-tragedy have been prevented altogether?

Authorities originally responded to the scene after a hotel employee called and claimed that the woman had attacked a maid and was threatening to jump from the balcony herself. When police did arrive, she seemingly acted very erratic, and later reports characterized her as “a suicidal person.” This case represents the countless calls law enforcement officials receive every year involving a person in the midst of an apparent mental health crisis.

Researchers estimate that fully one-quarter of police encounters that end in a fatality can be tied to suspects experiencing urgent psychiatric episodes. Only real and meaningful change can curb this deadly trend. San Francisco, for example, has adopted a new crisis intervention approach that largely replaces armed law enforcement responses to incidents involving the mentally ill with a trained team of mental health professionals, social workers, counselors, and paramedics. For incidents where law enforcement may be necessary, officers will have likewise received specialized training for dealing with such circumstances.

Sign the petition below to support taking this essential and possibly life-saving reform to the national level.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Senator Schumer,

After a tragedy, we often ask, “what could have been done?” Following every mass casualty crime in America, attention typically turns briefly to mental health intervention, only to be inevitably drowned out by partisan political battles. Meanwhile, a sizeable percentage of the inmates sitting in prison right now have diagnosed and undiagnosed mental disorders. At least 25 percent of police calls are consumed by responding to the actions of a person in a severe psychiatric episode. Sadly, too many of these calls end in ultimate tragedy.  And so the relentless cycle continues.

What can we do? We can break the cycle. San Francisco responded to its own reckoning with such escalating crises by investing in intervention teams comprised of fully trained mental health, social work, and emergency response professionals. These teams are deployed to scenes where the police might otherwise intervene, and they help de-escalate the most urgent and life-threatening situations. This change of approach, along with investing in more involved crisis intervention training for police officers, could go such a long way in healing some of the divides that now exist between law enforcement and communities. Moreover, these commitments could save lives.

Please consider truly transformative legislation that could craft and implement crucial crisis intervention reform nationwide.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Tony Webster




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2 Comments

  1. Elizabeth Story says:

    Police in the main are ill-equipped to deal with distressed mentally ill people, as they often escalate the situation.If trained mental health professionals were called a better outcome would probably result.

  2. I disagree with this article. Anyone who abuses an animal must have the mandatory death penalty performed on them. A slow and agonising death is essential.

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