Advocates called for more police training after a man with profound mental illness was shot to death by Milwaukee police, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Our purpose is not to demonize our suspect but … through his death draw attention to an extraordinarily serious social health problem,” said Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn. The victim was Dontre Hamilton, 31. Last year, police responded when he tried to kill himself by stabbing both sides of his neck, saying, “Voices told me to kill myself and you people, too.” At that time, Hamilton was placed in emergency detention and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Recently, according to family members, he had been acting “strangely,” Flynn said. “I’d say the system failed him.”
Milwaukee County has one of the nation’s highest percentages of people detained for psychiatric care. More than 30 percent of patients seen at the Milwaukee County Mental Health Complex’s emergency room returned within 90 days in 2012. In 2013, 9,600 calls came to Milwaukee police about individuals who were in mental health crisis, or 26 calls a day. That pace is increasing. The department has received more than 3,100 calls about people in crisis so far in 2014, Flynn said. Fewer than 1 in 4 Milwaukee officers have received Crisis Intervention Training, the 40-hour class that identifies the signs of serious mental illness and teaches officers how to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation.