Mental Illness Had Role in 20% of Baltimore Use-of-Force Cases

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Police response to individuals with mental illness is again in the spotlight given a new U.S. Justice Department report showing how often Baltimore officers forcibly detain people in crisis. DOJ investigators found that over a six-year period, mental illness played a role in at least 1 of every 5 cases in which a Baltimore officer used force, even if the person presented no immediate threat, the Washington Post reports. At least one encounter ended in death.

Because of a lack of training, police end up in “unnecessarily violent” confrontations with people with mental health problems, the report says. In addition, they consistently failed to de-escalate situations and often escalated them. In many cases, officers’ goal was to “bring the individual into immediate custody at all costs.” The report does more than list statistics; it provides the intimate details of actual cases. Doing so puts forward stories in what, for the Justice Department, is an unusual narrative, the Post says.


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