In the 11 months since the death of a man named Dontre Hamilton at police hands, Milwaukee police have intensified efforts to improve dealings with people with mental illness. Mental health advocates tell the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that Milwaukee County officials have a long way to go to catch up with best practices from other cities. Milwaukee will train every officer in crisis intervention skills by the end of 2017. In the meantime, advocates say police and mental health administrators have not been aggressive enough despite early success in pairing police officers with mental health professionals.
There are just two teams that match an officer and mental health worker to respond to the most intense cases. The teams are not available on weekends, early mornings or after midnight, times when incidents with troubled people often occur. County officials have called this collaboration “hugely successful,” but Sister Rose Stietz, a member of the Milwaukee Inner-city Congregations Allied for Hope, says Milwaukee can do much better. She and others have been advocating for police to add more teams. “They could be doing so much more,” Stietz said. “But there is no urgency.”