Mental Health Training for Police Questioned After Oxnard Shooting
A recent officer-involved shooting in Oxnard has prompted questions about mental health training for members of law enforcement, the Ventura County Star reports.
On Aug. 14, Michael Mahoney was fatally shot by Oxnard police after he waved a gun near his home.
His sister said that Mahoney had mental and physical problems and that he had been hospitalized for them following previous visits by police.
Some officers at the scene of the shooting had completed Ventura County's crisis intervention program, which began in 2001.
Authorities have credited the program with reducing deaths in incidents involving residents with mental illnesses.
As part of the training, officers learn about the behaviors of people with mental illnesses and practice verbal techniques for defusing tense situations.
Details of Concerns
Ratan Bhavnani -- executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness in Ventura County -- said that crisis intervention training does not prepare officers for every problem.
Bhavnani said, "If the police knew (Maloney) was mentally ill, and if responding officers were trained, it could have resulted in a better outcome."
In addition, Bhavnani wants Ventura County to implement Laura's Law (Von Quednow, Ventura County Star, 8/27).
The 2002 law allows courts to mandate treatment for residents with severe mental health conditions and a history of violence or hospitalization. California's counties are allowed to decide whether to implement the law, but only Nevada County has done so (California Healthline, 5/4).
The Assembly recently passed a bill (AB 1569), by Assembly member Mike Allen (D-Santa Rosa), that would extend the law. The bill has been sent to Gov. Jerry Brown (D) for consideration (California Healthline, 8/23).
Response From Law Enforcement
Commander Marty Meyer -- manager of crisis intervention training for Oxnard police -- said he was aware of the Mahoney incident but could not comment on it.
Meyer said that officers are instructed during training to consider "time, distance and space" during encounters with individuals with mental illnesses. He said officers are encouraged to ask the individual questions to establish a dialogue.
Meyer added that there are nonlethal forms of subduing an individual but that sometimes lethal force is necessary.
He said, "There is always criticism on anything we do," adding, "That's why we review what we do and listen to what people are saying" (Ventura County Star, 8/27).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.