20% of Police Calls May Involve people With Mental Illness Issues


When Newport, R.I., police officers found Aaron Alexis complaining that a “microwave machine” was sending out vibrations piercing his body, there was nothing to suggest that a month later, he would launch a deadly attack at the Washington, D.C., Navy Yard, says USA Today. By some estimates, 20 percent of police calls involve people whose behavior ranges from the dysfunctional to serious mental illness. A Memphis program known as the Crisis Intervention Team or CIT, offers specialized training to officers in dealing with the emotionally disturbed. It attempts to link police with mental health professionals and community advocates to provide resources, including treatment outside the confines of prisons and jails, which have become repositories for the mentally ill. “I hate the idea that we’re putting people like this in jail when the issue often really isn’t a criminal one,” said Sam Cochran, a retired Memphis police major who was the department’s first CIT coordinator. “The issues, more often than not, involve individuals dealing with crisis.”

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