A recent investigation claims that a “disturbingly high percentage” of individuals shot by police suffer from mental health problems. The investigation also claims that there is no official documentation regarding the deaths of those who suffer from mental illnesses. According to the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, who conducted the investigation, there are no federal statistics on police shootings of mentally ill people. The investigation, published this week, states “a review of available reports indicates that at least half of the estimated 375 to 500 people shot and killed by police each year in this country have mental health problems.”
The newspapers collaborated to analyze the incidents of police using deadly force in the state of Maine — a state with a “comparatively low” crime rate — since 2000. The report noted that 42 percent of people shot by police since 2000 had mental health problems.
Fifty eight percent of those died from their injuries.
According to reports from the Maine Attorney General’s Office, the officers in many cases knew that the subjects were disturbed, and they were dead in a matter of moments.
In September of this year, police in Houston reportedly fatally shot a man in a wheelchair. The man was a veteran, a double-amputee diagnosed with severe mental problems. When officers saw him waving a shiny object in the air, they reportedly fatally shot the man. The shiny object turned out to be a pen.
The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegramcited other incidents this year:
“In Saginaw, MI, six police officers gun down a homeless, schizophrenic man in a vacant parking lot when he refuses to drop a small folding knife. In Seattle, WA, a police officer fatally shoots a mentally ill, chronic alcoholic as he crosses the street, carving a piece of wood with a pocket knife. In Portland, OR, police check on a man threatening suicide and wind up killing him with a single gunshot in the back.
The report further claimed that “while the Justice Department counts every assault, robbery and drunk-driving arrest — as well as every police officer shot on duty — it gathers no numbers on mentally ill people shot by police.”
Meanwhile, the FBI does not quantify police shootings that are found “unjustified,” meaning those that have no justifiable cause. The FBI allegedly tallies only shooting that result in “justifiable homicides.”
From 2006 to 2010, 373 of 411 shootings occurred.
Unjustified police shootings are counted among all other homicides. In other words, the FBI doesn’t specifically count any incidents involving mentally ill people, cites the investigation.
The report cites “lack of police training in crisis intervention” as a major source of the problem. A lack of “oversight and accountability” also add to the issue.
What do you think about police fatally shooting mentally ill people?
[Note: The policemen and patrons in the above picture are not tied to this story]