They try to change the way officers respond to people in crisis
In response to the deaths of several people with mental health problems in police custody, legislators in at least eight U.S. states are introducing bills to change the way military officers respond to people in crisis.
These proposals are mainly based on additional training of officials to better interact with people with mental health problems. However, none of these measures seem to solve a fundamental question: When someone suffers from a mental illness, should the police be the answer?
In California, lawmakers introduced a bill in February that, among other things, would require officials to complete college courses in mental health, social services, and psychology without requiring a degree.
In New York, lawmakers proposed an enforcement plan in January that requires the plan to complete at least 32 hours of training, which includes conflict resolution skills and interactions with people with mental health problems.
The proposal was for agents in Rochester, New York to put a turban on Daniel Prud’s head and press his naked body on the street until he stopped breathing for nearly a year. The victim’s family said that after the black Prud fell into a mental crisis, they called 911 for help.
In Utah, Linden Cameron’s mother called 911 in September because the 13-year-old boy was facing a crisis and needed the help of an officer. The police eventually shot him several times when he escaped because they thought he had threatened him with a weapon.
He has been hospitalized and no weapons have been found. These officials are not crisis intervention experts, but have received training in mental health.
Last month, Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed a bill that would establish a council to regulate the training of police crisis intervention teams across the state.
At least 34 states have required military officers to receive training on how to interact with people with physical or mental health problems. But experts say that up-to-date training is needed, and agents are far behind.