To The Editor:
Eileen McNamara’s story in the Sunday Globe magazine, (Deadly force-A spate of police shootings of suspects raises unsettling questions, October 20, 2013) is a troubling commentary on both the dangers of police work, and the critical need for well-funded, high quality police training.
Every day, police officers throughout the Commonwealth respond to people experiencing psychiatric crises in situations that can quickly deteriorate. The results are often unnecessary arrests and detentions of people with mental illness. At times, events result in avoidable injuries to the person at the center of the call and to the officers themselves.
Advocates for people with mental illness and members of the law enforcement community are addressing the need for improved police training to safely and humanely respond to people experiencing a psychiatric crisis. NAMI Mass (the National Alliance on Mental Illness of Massachusetts, the Massachusetts Municipal Police Training Committee and the Department of Mental Health recently launched a dynamic, interactive training curriculum for all new police recruits in the Commonwealth, incorporating role playing and other interactive exercises to a program co-taught by a mental health clinician and police officer. By increasing the training from four hours to 12 hours, the Commonwealth’s police officers will be better prepared to safely manage these difficult situations.
We were surprised to learn Massachusetts spends the 3rd lowest on police training per police officer in the nation; improved training is crucial to giving our police officers the necessary tools to ensure everyone in our communities is free from unnecessary arrest and safe from harm.
Laurie Martinelli, Executive Director, NAMI Mass
Stephen Rosenfeld, Interim President, NAMI Mass
June S. Binney, Criminal Justice Project Director, NAMI Mass