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At least 25 percent of people who are shot and killed by police officers are suffering from acute mental illness at the time of the shooting.
As many as half of those killed by law enforcement are believed to have a disability.
It has been proven time and time again that police officers are simply not equipped to deal with mental health crises. The farthest their training goes in this field is watching an hour long informational video, sometimes followed by a short quiz. This in no way gives them the tools to deal with the multitude of mental health emergencies they are called to respond to. There is no training video to be watched, or single policy change to be implemented, that will fix the biases embedded into the foundation of American law enforcement.
The only option is to build something new.
One step that can be taken to defund the police and invest back into communities is by ensuring there are emergency responders in every city across the country trained specifically to aid those undergoing mental health crises. Trained professionals with degrees in these areas should be the ones responding to them.
This is not a radical idea. Voters across party lines agree that there should be police alternatives depending on the emergency. According to recent polling by Data for Progress and The Justice Collaborative Institute, 68 percent of likely voters support the creation of non-law enforcement emergency responders programs, and 70 percent of likely voters support a non-police response for when a family member calls 911 because of a mental health crisis.
One argument from those who oppose defunding the police is that there will be no police force when it’s actually needed, but little do they know that a huge portion of Americans cannot rely on the police force anyways. For decades, Black people have refused to call the police even when they desperately need help because they know once law enforcement officers get involved, situations become deadly. The same practice applies to many communities of color, as well as immigrants both documented and not.
The majority of disenfranchised people are aware that the current police force in America does not serve and protect them, it punishes and brutalizes them. Now, those who suffer from mental health issues or have family members that do are beginning to add their own names to the list of people who have found the dangers of calling the police.
In today’s episode, Shaun explores the idea that reimagining policing does not mean embracing chaos, but implementing alternatives, and lays out exactly the alternatives America needs.