Police discuss mental illness and excessive force in Dekalb Co. - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Police discuss mental illness and excessive force in Dekalb Co.

(Source: WGCL) (Source: WGCL)

Dozens of mental health professionals from around the state met with DeKalb County Police Oct. 11 to discuss ways to respond to mentally troubled citizens without using excessive force.

With all eyes watching, DeKalb County Police shared a disturbing training video with a group of health professionals.

Their objective is to seek advice on how to peacefully resolve situations involving mentally troubled citizens.

Assistant Chief Sonya Porter informed the group that half of DeKalb County police officers have received mental health training, but more must be done.

"There have been several situations where my tone of voice was not appropriate when I was dealing with someone with mental illness because you don't know," said Porter.

Two months ago, officers responded to a call of an armed man on Maple Walk Circle in Decatur, but when units arrived Quintas Harris fired at officers. They fired back killing Harris.

The victim's mother said her son had a mental illness and called on county officials to look for better ways to handle similar situations.

CEO Michael Thurmond says discussions like this one is a step in the right direction.

"We made a promise to her in my office that we would step forward, bring together mental health professionals from across DeKalb and see what steps can be taken to save lives and get people the help that they need," said Thurmond.

During the roundtable discussion, mental health experts offered advice on how law enforcement can de-escalate mental health cases.

"What we want to see is the officer remaining as calm as possible and speaking in  as soft a tone as possible," said psychologist Dr. Howard Drutman.

Phsycologist Rachel Waford says she absolutely thinks the roundtable discussion will make a difference.

"We're starting a conversation which is the first step in getting things started. I would love to take this conversation into communities to see what they can do before law enforcement ever has to be called," she said.

Thurmond says he will make recommendation in the 2018 budget that will create and strengthen the ability for officers to respond to citizens who are in the midst of a mental health crisis.

Copyright 2017 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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