The Phoenix Police Department is making serious strikes in how it handles situations where individuals have mental health issues.
“The board, made up of mental health professionals, will help police with training methods when it comes to dealing with mentally ill cases, and include regular reviews of protocol.” According to reporting by ABC 15 News.
I am really proud of the Phoenix Police Department for making this first step and creating an advisory board. This is an example of the standard of professionalism set by the department. Accepting that more could be done, Phoenix police are actively engaging experts in the community in how to handle complex situations that involve individuals with mental health issues.
As I have argued in the past, on this website, I believe the Americans with Disabilities Act creates an affirmative duty for police to accommodate individuals with known mental health problems (it must be known to the police too). The task force could recommend what reasonable accommodations could be made by police officers during investigations.
Procedures and guidelines for police on mental health calls in Phoenix are less than clear from at least the public’s perspective. ABC 15 News did report in the article linked to above that on each mental health call performed by Phoenix police, an officer and a Sargent trained in crisis intervention are on hand. Presumably the crisis intervention training includes a mental health aspect — or at least I would hope so.
While many more mental health calls go on each day than are reported in the news, two high profile situations yielded very different results.
The use of deadly force during mental health calls by the Phoenix Police Department is still concerning to me. It is not clear if non-lethal options are available, and if so, are taught as a first option in the crisis intervention training. The news articles appear to only mention police use or potential use of guns. Perhaps this is just incomplete reporting by the local news media. On the other hand, I would like the advisory board and for Phoenix police to focus on non-lethal options. Of course there are times when lethal force is necessary to protect law enforcement and citizens, it should be a last resort in situations with known mental health issues.
I think that is a reasonable accommodation.