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Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters — (Treatment Advocacy Centre)
[The following article is full of misleading and inaccurate information – we know that it is not “untreated” mental illness that is the biggest problem, it is psych drugs that cause problems for people who are taking them and for people who have taken them. They prevent recovery from mental states that were temporary beffore the advent of psych drugs.]
Enormous attention has been focused in recent years on the lack of complete and accurate official statistics reporting fatal law enforcement encounters. Barely noted in the uproar has been the role played by serious mental illness, a medical condition that, when treated, demonstrably reduces the likelihood of interacting with police or being arrested, much less dying in the process.
Despite the dearth of official data, there is abundant evidence individuals with mental illness make up a disproportionate number of those killed at the very first step of the criminal justice process: while being approached or stopped by a law enforcement officer in the community.
Overlooked in the Undercounted: The Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters surveys the status of law enforcement homicide reporting, examines the demonstrable role of mental illness in the use of deadly force by law enforcement and recommends practical approaches to reducing fatal police shootings and the many social costs associated with them.
Because of the disproportionate volume of contact between individuals with serious mental illness and law enforcement, reducing the likelihood of police interaction with individuals in psychiatric crisis may represent the single most immediate, practical strategy for reducing fatal police encounters in the United States.
- The risk of being killed while being approached or stopped by law enforcement in the community is 16 times higher for individuals with untreated serious mental illness than for other civilians.
- By the most conservative estimates, at least 1 in 4 fatal law enforcement encounters involves an individual with serious mental illness. When data have been rigorously collected and analyzed, findings indicate as many as half of all law enforcement homicides ends the life of an individual with severe psychiatric disease.
- The arrest-related death program operated by the Bureau of Justice Statistics within the US Department of Justice is the only federal database that attempts to systematically collect and publish mental health information about law enforcement homicides. The program was suspended in 2015 because the data available to the agency was not credible enough to report.
Recommendations to Policymakers
- Restore the mental illness treatment system sufficiently that individuals with serious mental illness are not left untreated to the point that their behavior results in law enforcement action
- Accurately count and report the number of fatal police encounters in a reliable federal database
- Accurately count and report all incidents involving use of all deadly force by law enforcement, not only those incidents that result in death
- Systematically identify the role of mental illness in fatal law enforcement encounters
Since the Study
- The 21st Century Cures Act, passed by Congress and signed by President Obama in December 2016, included a mandate for the US attorney general to collect and report data on the role of serious mental illness in fatal law enforcement encounters.
- The Bureau of Justice Statistics overhauled its system for collecting law enforcement homicide data and, in December 2016, resumed reporting arrest-related death statistics. Using the new methodology approximately doubled the number of arrest-related deaths that were verified and reported by the Department of Justice. The role of mental illness in them has not yet been reported.