Milwaukee Police Chief Ed Flynn says the death of a mentally ill man shot by police in a city park on Wednesday highlights the need for more access to treatment for people with mental illness.
Thirty-one-year-old Dontre Hamilton had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and had recently tried to kill himself. He died Wednesday after a veteran police officer shot him several times. The officer says he fired the shots after Hamilton grabbed his police baton and began beating the officer on the head.
Flynn says Milwaukee police have responded to 3,000 mental illness-related calls this year. He says there should be a new standard for requiring the detention and treatment of mentally ill people who are prone to violence.
“Let's at least work backwards, from the people that have either been killed or wounded by police in violent confrontations, and identify what they have in common and what could a thoughtful system do about people that are headed down that road,” Flynn said.
“It won't be perfect, but it certainly would put us in the position to save more lives,” he continued.
State Rep. Sandy Pasch, who has worked as a mental health nurse, says there's no evidence mentally ill people are more prone to violence.
She says the answer isn't a new detention standard but rather more training for police in how to handle people experiencing a mental health crisis. She says a new program in Milwaukee County that allows mental health workers to work more closely with police in dealing with such situations is a step in the right direction.