Police shootings: Distraught people, deadly results

Police increasingly acknowledge that they have few effective tools for handling the mentally ill. In interviews, current and former police chiefs said that without large-scale police retraining, as well as a nationwide increase in mental health services, these deadly encounters will continue.

Severe budget cuts for psychiatric services — by as much as 30 percent in some states in recent years — have created a vacuum that local police are increasingly asked to fill, they said.

“We as a society need to put more money and funding into treating the mentally ill. We need to work with these people . . . before they end in tragedy,” said Mike Carter, the police chief in Sand Springs, Okla.

Police are taught to employ tactics that tend to be counterproductive in such encounters, experts said. For example, most officers are trained to seize control when dealing with an armed suspect, often through stern, shouted commands.

But yelling and pointing guns is “like pouring gasoline on a fire when you do that with the mentally ill,” said Ron Honberg, policy director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Mental health experts say most police departments need to quadruple the amount of training that recruits receive for dealing with the mentally ill, requiring as much time in the crisis-intervention classroom as police currently spend on the shooting range. But training is no panacea, experts caution.

The mentally ill are unpredictable. Moreover, police often have no way of knowing when they are dealing with a mentally ill person. Officers are routinely dispatched with information that is incomplete or wrong. And in a handful of cases this year, police were prodded to shoot someone who wanted to die.

via Police shootings: Distraught people, deadly results | The Washington Post.

All 50 US states fail to meet global police use of force standards

Every state in the US fails to comply with international standards on the lethal use of force by law enforcement officers, according to a report by Amnesty International USA, which also says 13 US states fall beneath even lower legal standards enshrined in US constitutional law and that nine states currently have no laws at all to deal with the issue.

“While law enforcement in the United States is given the authority to use lethal force, there is no equal obligation to respect and preserve human life. It’s shocking that while we give law enforcement this extraordinary power, so many states either have no regulation on their books or nothing that complies with international standards,” Amnesty USA’s executive director, Steven Hawkins said.

Amnesty found that in all 50 states and Washington DC, written statutes were too broad to fit international standards, concluding: “None of the laws establish the requirement that lethal force may only be used as a last resort with non-violent means and less harmful means to be tried first. The vast majority of laws do not require officers to give a warning of their intent to use firearms.”

via All 50 US states fail to meet global police use of force standards, report finds | US news | The Guardian.

United States: Force Against Prisoners With Mental Illness

Jail and prison staff throughout the United States have used unnecessary, excessive, and even malicious force against prisoners with mental disabilities, Human Rights Watch charged in a report released last week.

The 127-page report, “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons,” details incidents in which correctional staff have deluged prisoners with painful chemical sprays, shocked them with powerful electric stun weapons, and strapped them for days in restraining chairs or beds. Staff have broken prisoners’ jaws, noses, ribs; left them with lacerations requiring stitches, second-degree burns, deep bruises, and damaged internal organs. In some cases, the force used has led to their death.

Staff in US correctional facilities are authorized to use force when necessary to control dangerous or highly disruptive prisoners. But as Human Rights Watch found, staff at times respond with violence when prisoners engage in behavior that is symptomatic of their mental health problems and even when it is minor and non-threatening, such as urinating on the floor, using profane language, banging on a cell door, masturbating, complaining about not receiving a meal, or refusing to come out of a cell. Staff also sometimes use force to punish inmates who annoy or anger them.

via United States: Force Against Prisoners With Mental Illness | Human Rights Watch.

Guilty of Mental Illness

Criminalizing mental illness is costly, inhumane and counterproductive. On average it costs $143 a day to incarcerate someone who is not mentally ill, but twice as much if the individual has a psychiatric condition and requires doctor’s care, medication and extra security. Experts say the money used to lock people up could be better spent helping people get the mental health and other social services they need to live productive, meaningful lives.

Many are incarcerated for committing survival crimes, offenses involving people trying to get something to eat, find a place to sleep and just get by. Incarceration can also exacerbate psychiatric illness…

 

via Guilty of Mental Illness.

 

 

 

More guns, more guns, more guns.

image of assualt riflesThere’s no room for disagreement in the gun debate these days, no dissent is tolerated. It somehow makes you unpatriotic to worry about public safety or even express concern about the trend to eliminate virtually every regulation of firearms.

Read more about how North Carolina law makers would further loosen gun restrictions:

via More guns, more guns, more guns. | NC Policy Watch.

L. A. spends more money policing homeless than helping

The city of Los Angeles says it spends more than $100 million per year on homelessness, for a homeless population of 23,000. More than 80% of that money is spent on things that are not “building places for the homeless to live,” which could be one reason the homeless population in L.A. is growing.

A new report shows that more than half of the $100 million the city of Los Angeles spends on homelessness each year goes to the LAPD. Critics say this illustrates the city’s priority on criminalizing the homeless instead of helping them, LA Times reports.

It “supports what we’ve been saying for years that this city is doing almost nothing to advance housing solutions but continues down the expensive and inhumane process of criminalization that only makes the problem worse,” said Becky Dennison of Los Angeles Community Action Network — a skid row advocacy group.

via Los Angeles spends more money policing the homeless than helping them: report.