Phoenix Officials Discuss Improving Law Enforcement Encounters During Mental-Health Crises

By Carrie Jung
Published: Tuesday, April 11, 2017 - 7:05am
(Photo by Carrie Jung - KJZZ)
Phoenix first responders and city officials hosted an open discussion with residents about how to improve law enforcement response when encountering a resident experiencing a mental-health crisis.

Phoenix residents had a chance to ask city officials and first responders questions about the results of the newly released Community Needs Assessment for People With Mental Illness. The study surveyed both law enforcement and residents with mental-health issues.

Six panelists with backgrounds ranging from the fire department to a resident who has actually used city services answered audience questions.

Mental health and elder-law attorney Charles Arnold was one of them. He said his office is currently helping lawmakers draft legislation stating that police officers should be involved in a crisis situation only when its likely to become dangerous. Right now, state statute says they must always be called.

"Working with officers, fire and other entities that transport people with mental illness to fix those statutes," Arnold explained. "To provide that the police officers need to be involved only when there’s an issue of dangerousness."

Officials said the goal of the effort is to improve the response a resident experiencing a mental-health crisis sees when encountering law enforcement and ultimately develop a model other cities can look to.

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