Mental Illness: Justice Department Focuses on Police Treatment of Mentally Ill.

 Aug. 29, 2016.

DOJ lawyers investigating claims of racial discrimination and excessive force turned up a different problem: officers’ interactions with the mentally ill. The latest example came in Baltimore, where a critical report on that department’s policies found that officers end up in unnecessarily violent confrontations with mentally disabled people who in many instances haven’t even committed crimes. The report cited instances of officers using a stun gun to subdue an agitated man who refused to leave a vacant building and of spraying mace to force a troubled person — said by his father to be unarmed and off his medications — out of an apartment. Though past federal investigations have addressed the problem, the Baltimore report went a step further: It was the first time the Justice Department has explicitly found that a police department’s policies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The finding is intended to chart a path to what federal officials hope will be far-reaching improvements, including better training for dispatchers and officers, diversion of more people to treatment rather than jail and stronger relationships with mental health specialists.

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