June 23, 2005

Police Education on Brain Disorders?

A tragic shooting Our position: Police need more training in dealing with violent mentally ill suspects.

In Florida, a man suffering from schizophrenia was shot and killed. Though this news is upsetting, suggestions have been made on how to prevent this from happening again in the future. The shooting took place because none of the police officers who were called to deal with the situation: "the man burst out of a room waving a knife," had received any training in dealing with suspects suffering from mental disorders.

Based on preliminary reports, it appears that the deputies at the scene did the best they could when the man burst out of a room waving a knife. They tried to shock him with a Taser. When that didn't work, they shot him with a gun.The outcome was tragic for the victim, his family and the deputies. It underscores the need to get training for all patrol officers throughout Central Florida.

Though this tragedy occurred in Florida, it is relevant to all parts of the country and even the world. Often, law enforcers don't know how to deal with people suffering from mental disorders. This is especially important when considering the large number of homeless afflicted with mental disorders and the large number of families that turn to police for help. While we know that initiatives are currently being made, there is still much better education needed for law enforcer members on mental disorders and people that suffer from them. We believe that this would greatly reduce the occurrence of such tragedies.


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Great point on the need for police training. It is also important for family or friends calling 911 to inform police and the operator about the mental condition of a person as specifically as possible, before any action at the scene takes place.

This story is reminiscent of the San Jose police shooting of a mentally ill woman brandishing a large vegetable peeler, back in 2003. "Civilians Down" lists some people with mental illness who have been killed or wounded by police between 1993-2003:


Posted by: Laurie Buenafe at June 23, 2005 10:38 AM

Although training is important ... One can not reasonably expect a police officer to risk his life when dealing with a mentally ill person with a knife. I am sure the police officer is not happy he killed someone but mentally ill or not anyone with a knife poses a serious threat to a cop. It is easy to see our standpoint but we must also look at theirs ...Just as we dont want to see ourselves or our loved ones hurt they also want to go home to their families at the end of the day.... Its a double edged sword which i wish i had the answer to...But there is no easy answer

Posted by: trex at June 23, 2005 06:27 PM

my son has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.He had an episode about 1.5 years ago at which time they had diagnosed him with bipolarand he was on an antidepressent which did not agree with him. He became very aggitated with me and I wanted him to return to the hospital,he refused and subsequently I called 911 to get help in transporting him. The police also showed up and by that time he had grabbed a steak knife so that he did not have to go. I told the police and paramedics that he had new diagnosis of mental illness. They tazed him and pepper sprayed him and one of the officers made the comment that he was very close to shooting him. I understand that they had to use force to take him down but afterwards knowing that he had mental illness they charged him with a fellony and he was in jail for 4 days.I don't understand them charging him with a felony? This has caused us considerable cost in legal fees and also my son not only has mental illness but a record as well that makes it difficult for him to be employed and he has also been refused for housing due to his criminal record. We need to get police more educated.

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