Law \ Legal

Should Police Step Back in Suicide Cases?


Police departments in a growing number of states are telling officers on calls when someone is threatening suicide to respond, assess and sometimes, depending on the situation, leave, reports Caren Chesler for the New York Times. In Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Fresno, CA., and Birmingham, AL., departments have adopted strategies referred to as “Tactical Disengagement” or “Tactical Retreat,” in which officers determine if the presence of police will only escalate the situation, and then, if so, turn the case over to the mental health system.

Many of these departments are now having their officers respond to suicide calls with mental health professionals in tow. However, mental health experts actually argue that some suicidal people may be more likely to kill themselves if police aren’t present. The data is not yet there to determine which scenario is more likely. Nearly a quarter of the 6,800 fatal police shootings recorded since 2015 involved people with mental health conditions, and there were 178 instances in which law enforcement officers shot and killed the very people they were trying to save.

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