In 1987, a Memphis police officer shot and killed a mentally ill man who was cutting himself and threatening others. The incident inspired training programs to help police handle these tricky situations. Those programs are catching on, reports National Public Radio. It’s a situation no one wants to see: An armed police officer is called because someone is in the throes of a psychotic episode. “How the officer handles that situation can have a significant impact,” says Russell Laine, head of the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The IACP held a two-day meeting recently to discuss how officers should respond. The Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, an advocacy group for people with mental illness, says about 200 or 300 police departments with active training programs. The center says what’s really needed are community services where people with mental illness can get treatment and support, so that crises can be avoided in the first place.