The Los Angeles Times reports that the LA Police Protective League has joined more than a dozen other police unions, including those in New York, San Jose and Chicago, asking for federal funding for crisis-intervention training, less-lethal devices and officers who team up with mental health professionals to respond to emergency calls. The proposal, “Compassionate and Accountable Responses for Everyone,” will be formally unveiled at a news conference Thursday morning in New York. Most police department already offer some training in how to appropriately respond to someone who has mental health issues — LAPD officers receive 15 hours of training specific to mental health while in the academy — but the issue continues to draw attention, particularly after several high-profile police shootings of people who were diagnosed with mental illnesses. In New York, for example, a police sergeant was charged with second-degree murder after fatally shooting a mentally ill woman who had a baseball bat.
Louis Dekmar, the police chief in LaGrange, Ga., and first vice president of the International Assn. of Chiefs of Police, commented: “We’ve taken what should be a public health issue and we’ve turned it into a criminal issue. And the sad commentary is, of the 900 and some fatal police shootings a year, about 25% are affected by mental illness.”
In Los Angeles, four of the 28 people struck by police gunfire in 2016 showed signs of mental illness, according to LAPD data. The previous year, nearly a third of the 38 people shot by police were perceived to be mentally ill.