In response to the deaths of several people with mental health problems in police custody, lawmakers in at least eight states in the United States are introducing bills to change the way officers respond to people in crisis.
Miami World – AP
The proposals are primarily based on providing additional training to officers to better interact with people with mental health problems. But none of the initiatives seem to address the fundamental question: Should the police be the answer when someone suffers from a mental illness?
Bill in California
In California, lawmakers introduced a bill in February that among other things will require officers to complete college courses in mental health, social services and psychology, without requiring a degree.
In New York, lawmakers in January proposed a plan for law enforcement to complete a minimum of 32 hours of training that would include conflict resolution techniques and interaction with people who have mental health problems.
The proposal came nearly a year after agents from Rochester, New York, put a hood over Daniel Prude’s head and pressed his naked body against the street until he stopped breathing.
The victim’s family said they called 911 for help after Prude, who was black, went into a mental crisis.
In Utah, Linden Cameron’s mother called 911 in September because the 13-year-old was having a crisis and needed the help of an officer.
The police ended up shooting him several times as he fled because they believed he had threatened with a weapon.
He was hospitalized and no weapon was found. The officers were not crisis intervention specialists, but had some training in mental health.
Last month, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed into law a law that will create a council to standardize training for police crisis intervention teams across the state.
Mental health problems
At least 34 states already require officers to have some training on how to interact with people who have physical or mental health problems. But experts say up-to-date training is needed and agencies are far behind.