What should have been a routine case of Philadelphia police officers’ helping a homeless mentally ill man off the street and into a warm shelter turned ugly and violent, advocates for homeless people told the Philadelphia Inquirer. When the man resisted, the officers called for backup, and he ended up being severely beaten by about a dozen officers, said Kristen Edwards of Project HOME, a homeless shelter and advocacy agency.
The altercation – the latest in a string of a half-dozen often-fatal confrontations between police and mentally ill people since 2000 – has prompted advocates to ask the Police Department to adopt nonlethal ways of dealing with them. The advocates will meet with Police Commissioner Sylvester Johnson next Monday to discuss whether the city can adopt a program similar to one created in 1988 by police in Memphis. Used in Houston, Atlanta, Chicago, and more than 45 other communities, the Memphis “Crisis Intervention Team” approach includes 40 hours of special training for a select group of police officers and greater coordination with social-service agencies, the patients, and their families.