Los Angeles’ police union has thrown its support behind a national push for federal funding and other resources to help officers better prepare for interactions with people who are mentally ill.
The L.A. Police Protective League is one of more than a dozen police unions nationwide — including those in New York, San Jose and Chicago — calling on the federal government to pay for crisis-intervention training, less-lethal devices and officers who team up with mental health professionals to respond to emergency calls.
Their agenda, dubbed Compassionate and Accountable Responses for Everyone, was formally unveiled at a news conference Thursday morning in New York.
”Our national mental health crisis is a social problem, not a police problem,” said Jamie McBride, one of the LAPD union’s directors, on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan.
Teaching police how to appropriately respond to someone who has mental health issues is nothing new — agencies have offered such training for years. But those interactions have drawn renewed attention in recent years, particularly after several high-profile police shootings of people who were diagnosed with mental illnesses.
Mental health advocates and police said that officers are often first responders in situations involving people who could be better helped with treatment or other services. Officers frequently describe feeling pressured to act not just as a police officer, but also as a therapist or social worker when responding to such calls — a difficult task, they say, if the encounter is volatile.
“This is an issue that’s not going away. We have to deal with it,” McBride said in an interview. “Enough is enough.”
The coalition hopes that federal involvement will standardize mental health training for officers across the country and help departments create teams pairing police and mental health clinicians that respond to people who are in crisis. The unions are also calling to modify federal law that keeps certain medical information private, so that officers responding to a call would know if the subject had any prior mental health-related issues.