Today there is much debate, concern and controversy surrounding many of our police agencies nationwide. As the number of police killings continue its upward trend, a small but vocal number have called for the defunding of police.
I, too, share their concerns and am particularly disturbed at the lack of preparations by most police departments to deal with the mentally impaired citizen that their officers are sure to confront at some point and time.
I am sickened when I see a military veteran suffering from PTSD shot dead in his kitchen in front of his wife and small children because he failed to obey the officers orders to drop a knife. This was not the help that family called for, certainly not the outcome they were seeking. Much too often noncompliant unarmed mentally-impaired citizens are injured are killed during physical confrontations with police.
First, due to a lack of detailed training, and secondly, a lack of mental health resources, many officers feel that their only alternative is to use immediate lethal force or call out the SWAT Team. Observe the average officer respond to an armed nonaggressive mental person and you will note that most officers will usually violate every established mental health strategy. SWAT teams are a critically necessary squad consisting of highly trained and skilled officers that are extremely proficient at taking lives when and if necessary.
Missing from police departments is an On Call, SMART TEAM, a (Special Mental Assistance Response Team), which could be immediately contacted and dispatched whenever a dispatcher receives a call involving a mental, autistic or similar person. The SMART TEAM would also consist of highly trained and skilled professionals who are extremely proficient at saving lives while dealing with persons experiencing a mental health crisis. One study indicates that police services cost our country around $100 billion each year. I don’t think anyone of sound mind would even entertain the thought that we should defund our police departments; however, I firmly believe that any funds reallocated and dedicated to saving and preserving life is well spent. I go on record as an advocate for having mental health professionals work hand-in-hand with our police professionals, whenever safely possible, in order to protect the lives of police officers and citizens.