Milwaukee is ramping up mental health training for all 1,867 police officers, in response to a push from the family of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot and killed by a police officer at a park, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. Hamilton, 31, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia and active hallucinations, was sleeping in the park that afternoon in April when employees at a nearby Starbucks called police to complain. Mayor Tom Barrett’s move to give all police 40 hours of training will make Milwaukee a national leader in mental health training for its police force.
Houston was the first U.S. police department to devote a division to mental health, pairing officers with mental health workers. Houston does not have all of its officers trained to deal with those in psychiatric crisis. Barrett’s action to expand training fulfills a pledge he and then-Police Chief Nanette Hegerty made in 2004 in response to a similar police shooting. A report from the Mental Health Task Force, which they served on, titled “A Critical Juncture” promised all officers would be trained in mental health to improve their crisis intervention skills.