Nationwide protests over police accountability and racial justice have reenergized longstanding efforts to fundamentally change how police departments respond to someone in a mental health emergency. Many are calling for removing or dramatically reducing law enforcement’s role in responding to those crisis calls unless absolutely necessary.
Since 2015, nearly a quarter of all people killed by police officers in America have had a known mental illness. Injuries, too, are common although they are less carefully tracked. There’s anecdotal evidence that botched encounters between police and people in a mental crisis are up during the pandemic.
One of the many examples: the recent shooting of a distraught 13-year-old boywith an autism spectrum disorder by Salt Lake City police after his mother called officers to report that her son was having “a mental breakdown.” The teenager is recovering from serious wounds. Then there’s the recent police shooting of a homeless man in crisis in Buffalo, N.Y. […]
By Eric Westervelt