Florence Police Chief says mental health crises is not a crime and best left to the doctors

Published: Jul. 8, 2021 at 9:42 PM CDT
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FLORENCE, Ala. (WAFF) - Mental health is not a crime. That’s what Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler is saying.

Florence Police Chief Ron Tyler says every month FPD responds to at least 46 mental health emergency calls.

In the state of Alabama, police officers or mental health professionals are allowed to take someone to an inpatient facility or mental health ward at the hospital for care.

Tyler said that often falls on his department’s trained mental health officer.

“They are asking a police officer to come to an emergency room and advice a doctor on a medical recommendation on whether or not this person is a threat to themselves or somebody else. That makes no sense,” said Tyler.

He said there are certainly times when police should intervene.

“When someone has a weapon, if someone is believed to have a weapon, you wouldn’t want to send anyone else, that’s a dangerous situation,” said Tyler.

He said, for the most part, the responsibility to handle these situations should not fall solely on the police.

UNA Associate professor of social work Dr. Coleman Reed agrees.

“Police are to protect and serve and they can just be a part of the team rather than being responsible for identifying and directing for people who are having emotional crises,” said Coleman Reed.

They both believe there needs to be increased funding for mental health and social services.

“Mental health services is not a separate entity. It’s really a service that involves in almost every aspect of the community and if we want to help these citizens we have to invest in that,” said Coleman Reed.

“My suggestion is that we expand who can place an involuntary hold on somebody and have them sent over to a mental health facility,” said Tyler “There ought to be others that go in and intervene and get other people help. At the end of the day, let’s let medical professionals provide medical help to the end that people get the help that they need from the right resources and police officers are not the right resources for someone having a mental health crisis.”

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