Report: 124 people with mental illness shot by police so far in 2015

The Washington Post illustrates police shootings involving individuals with mental illness
The Washington Post illustrates police shootings involving individuals with mental illness

The Washington Post published a front-page story July 1, detailing its initial finding from a first-of-its type database of fatal shooting incidents involving police officers.

Inspired by the protests surrounding police shootings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner, the Washington Post database tracks data on more than a dozen characteristics for each shooting.

Through July 1, police have fatally shot 462 civilians nationwide. In 124 of these situations, mental illness played a role, either because the person expressed suicidal intentions or the person’s mental illness was confirmed by police or family members.

In 45 of these shootings, relatives, friends and neighbors initially called the police, requesting medical treatment for the deceased.

“This a national crisis,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, an independent research organization devoted to improving policing, told the Washington Post. “We have to get American police to rethink how they handle encounters with the mentally ill. Training has to change.”

New recruits typically receive just eight hours of training on de-escalating tense situations and right hours on learning strategies for handling people with mental illness. Comparatively, they typically receive 60 hours on learning how to use a gun.

In many circumstances, the training receive is inadequate and even counterproductive.

“(Yelling and pointing guns is) like pouring gasoline on a fire when you do that with the mentally ill,” Ron Honberg, policy director with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told the Washington Post.

Although the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention track data on the police shootings, the data is widely believed to be inadequate. In four decades of tracking such data, it has never found more than 460 police involved shootings in a single year, which is less than the Post analysis found occurred in the first half of this year.

The Post’s data only tracks civilians shot while the officers were in the line of duty and does not include civilians already in custody, shooting by off-duty officers or incidents where individuals were shot by something other than police gunfire.

One response to “Report: 124 people with mental illness shot by police so far in 2015

  1. There is an obvious level of concern over the needless loss of life from situations where people with usually long histories of psychiatric treatment do not or are not able to respond appropriately to police.
    This is actually a much more complex issue than just retraining police. There also needs to be a retraining, and in fact a training of everyone in the public mental health and public safety system about the ramifications of the rampant use of psychotropic (mind altering) drugs on such a large scale.
    When all it takes is a person to stop taking a drug, over medicate, have a new medical condition interject itself, have a reaction from the drugs themselves, have a life situation erupt and overwhelm the person – we are also looking at a major situation of the side effects of using psychiatric drugs.
    The public by and large know nothing of the tremendous dangers from the effects of psychiatric drugs on certain individuals, let alone the withdrawal effects. I suspect the police are in the same situation – they simply are told the marketing line – the person went off his meds.
    Then we should also link in the concept of a large number of shooters linked to being on psychiatric drugs. is one such article covering this.
    We must move in the direction of true Informed Consent on the use of psychiatric drugs and not just base our public policy on marketing hype.
    People are also dying from psychiatric treatments. Today the psychiatric system contributes directly or indirectly to 40,000 deaths a year through severe organ damage and shortening of lives. This warrants a long hard look at this whole system in my book.

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