It too often ends in tragedy, but specialized training for officers is starting to make a difference
You’ve undoubtedly heard about the recent report issued by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice condemning various police practices in Baltimore. What has gone largely unmentioned, however, is the report’s detailed review of how encounters between police and people with mental illnesses result in “unnecessarily violent confrontations.”
This situation should resonate with every community and every law enforcement agency in the U.S., and the solution isn’t as straightforward as providing “more training” to police officers.
A few years ago, Behavioral Health System Baltimore collaborated with BPD, incorporating new dimensions to basic training for all officers to ensure that interactions with people with mental illnesses are safe and “mutually beneficial.” In partnership with the National Alliance for Mental Illness, BPD became an early adopter of “Crisis Intervention Teams (CIT),” providing additional, specialized training to select officers.
Why, then, despite these efforts, is the DOJ report so replete with examples of encounters between police and people with mental illnesses that result in someone getting hurt? And what does this say about the majority of police departments in the U.S. that have not begun to make the changes that Baltimore has already instituted?
The police department of Portland, Maine offers a helpful case study.