Seldom have we seen the sort of must-read series (and a spectacular online component) that the Star Tribune is providing this week, starting yesterday. The paper is looking at one of the least-covered scandals in Minnesota and the rest of the country: the lack of knowledge on the part of police when it comes to answering calls involving the mentally ill.
Last year, nine of 15 people killed by police had mental health problems
State law requires peace officers in Minnesota to get training in firearms, pursuit driving and use of force. It says nothing about training to intervene in a mental health crisis, the Strib said in yesterday’s installment.
There’s a reason for that of late. A state rep, who chairs a powerful committee, refused to give a bill a hearing, its own scandal that’s got scant attention in a session of massive legislative failure.
Training wouldn’t eliminate the killing of the mentally ill — Minneapolis and St. Paul police have more training but still have killed mentally ill people — but it can reduce the number. In Duluth, the city pairs trained social workers with squads responding to calls.
“We need to figure out how to humanize our role,” officer Angela Robertson tells the paper. “To treat someone like they’re a criminal with mental illness, it isn’t going to work.”
The Star Tribune collected the data and stories of everyone killed by police in a physical confrontation since 2000. Forty-five percent had a history of mental illness. You can find each of the stories here.
Related: What went wrong in Roseville mental health police call? (NewsCut)