The unfortunate death of a homeless, mentally ill man by a police shooting challenges us to find ways for mental health professionals and advocates to work closely with police departments to develop programs that will enable officers to successfully interact with mentally ill offenders.
The Memphis Police Department developed a program called “Community Intervention Teams,” which partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) to provide 40 hours of instruction to police officers who volunteered to become more competent in this area.
The program, which I was involved with, was in Savannah, Ga., trained officers from all over the state. Research has shown that these programs are effective in reducing unfortunate shootings. Maybe it’s time that Western Washington gave this idea a try.
(Williams is a former adult probation officer and retired social work professor who has worked closely with NAMI and other groups to provide effective interventions with the mentally ill.)