Mental Illness and Law Enforcement

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Last year in Fullerton, California police officers beat a homeless schizophrenic into a coma. After he died, the district attorney of conservative Orange County prosecuted two of the cops for manslaughter and second-degree murder. The trial took three weeks and evidence included a videotape featuring police batons, multiple strikes with a Taser and the voice of Kelly Thomas. After less than two days of deliberation, the jury acquitted both officers of all charges. As many as half the people killed by police in the US are mentally ill. Deadly violence occurs after cops have been called to deal with a crisis caused by disease, rather than criminality. But police training calls for the use of force, rather than empathy, and the public tends to side with officers of the law. With mental hospitals closed down and services cut back, confrontations may be inevitable. We look at potential solutions to a humanitarian problem.  




Warren Olney