According to an investigation conducted by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram, a shockingly high percentage of individuals shot by police are mentally ill.
Nearly half of the 375-500 people shot by police each year suffer from mental health problems.
The two publications were able to piece together these findings despite a lack of national data on this topic.
The report cites a lack of adequate crisis intervention training, a lack of oversight and accountability, and cutbacks in mental health services as factors exacerbating the problem.
The report notes a lack of police training in crisis intervention as fueling the problem, undergirded by a lack of oversight and accountability: “While the Justice Department counts every assault, robbery and drunk-driving arrest — as well as every police officer shot on duty — it gathers no numbers on mentally ill people shot by police,” the report stated. Meanwhile, the FBI does not quantify police shootings that are found “unjustified”: “the FBI tallies only police shootings that result in ‘justifiable’ homicides; 373 to 411 of these shootings occurred each year from 2006 through 2010. Unjustified police shootings are counted among all other homicides. The FBI doesn’t specifically count any incidents involving mentally ill people.”
Deadly force is rarely ruled unjustified — the investigation noted that in Maine, for example, the Attorney General’s Office has justified every single police shooting since 2000. Corroborating statistics in other states, although rarely collected, attest to the near-ubiquity of justification of use of deadly force. Colorines found that in Chicago between 2000 to 2007, only one police shooting out of 84 was considered to be “unjustified” (meaning no probable cause was found for believing a suspect to be a threat).
Thoughts on the results of this investigation? Is more research needed?
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