In an effort to better inform and educate police officers who sometimes have to interact with people with mental illness, departments around the country are instituting specialized training. Does this training actually help to de-escalate potentially violent situations? According to new research, the answer is “Yes.”
Police officers who undergo this training are less likely to use force when dealing with a situation that involves a person with mental illness:
The study, published in a recent edition of the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, surveyed 135 police officers from Atlanta about how they would handle three different scenarios involving mentally ill people. Forty-eight officers had received crisis-intervention team training, while 87 had not received the training.
Researchers discovered officers who underwent the training –known as the CIT Academy — chose to use less force in the third scenario presented to them.
There are numerous examples throughout the country of situations where police who haven’t undergone this training have used excessive force to deal with someone who apparently has mental illness. This article talks about a situation that happened in Utah where a man who apparently had bipolar disorder was Tasered twice, and died:
The findings could add clout to a claim made in a federal lawsuit filed this month by the family of Brian Cardall, who died in June after a Hurricane police officer twice deployed a Taser on Cardall as he suffered a bipolar episode on a southern Utah highway. Filed by Cardall’s widow, children and parents, the lawsuit alleges Hurricane police declined to send officers to the training for at least eight years, which they claim played a role in Cardall’s death.
The lawsuit says Hurricane Police Chief Lynn Excell failed to adequately train his officers by not sending them to attend the mental health training, in which dozens of police agencies across the state participate.
These incidents are not as rare as you might think. Last month, we noted when a Vermont police officer Tasered a woman with mental illness because she refused to move. Here’s hoping Vermont police officers take the CIT Academy training soon.
Tasers may be a necessary and effective tool when used appropriately by law enforcement. But Tasers should only be used by police officers who have been given training in how and when to use them with people who may have special circumstances surrounding their seemingly inexplicable behavior. Such training seems as valuable and necessary as the instruction manual that comes with the Taser itself.
Read the full article: Cops trained in crisis intervention less likely to use force on mentally ill