Mental Illness Should be Treated, Not Criminalized
We demand accountable mental health response. In the United States and Dearborn, mental illness is criminalized, not treated. We need to change this pattern. Mental illness is overrepresented in carceral settings. Despite comprising 20% of the United States population, people with mental illness represent 45% of all federal prison inmates, 54% of all state prison inmates, and 64% of all jail inmates (National Research Council, 2014). The largest mental health care facility in the US is a jail (Atlantic, 2015).
Police involvement puts people with serious mental illness and disabilities in danger. 1 in 50 U.S. adults experience untreated serious mental illness (Treatment Advocacy Center, 2015). 1 in 4 fatal U.S. police shootings are of people with untreated serious mental illness (Washington Post, 2021). 1 in 2 people killed by police had a disability (Perry & Cater-Long, 2016).
Reforms have failed to live up to their promise. Police are conditioned to command and control. Adding de-escalation training doesn't remove this programming. For every one hour of de-escalation training, officers receive nine hours of use of force training (Dayley, 2016). A decade of research into police mental health crisis intervention training produced insufficient evidence of its effectiveness (Peterson & Densley, 2018). Training had no effect on the likelihood that an officer will be injured during an interaction with a person with mental illness (Kerr et al., 2010). Officers' perceptions of people with mental illness as dangerous increase the likelihood they use force. Intervention training does not affect these perceptions (Haigh et al., 2020).
Dearborn Police Respond to Mental Illness with Racialized Violence
Janet Wilson was described by her family as goofy and loving. During a mental health crisis in 2016, Janet Wilson was murdered by Dearborn Police officer James Wade III. Officer Wade faced no criminal charges and is still on the force.
Kevin Matthews was a gentle and sensitive man who loved and was loved by his family. Kevin Matthews was living with schizophrenia when he was murdered in 2015 by Dearborn Police Officer Christopher Hampton. Hampton faced no criminal charges and remained on the force until his death in 2020.
In 2013, Ali Beydoun was riding his bike home from his part-time job as a dishwasher when he was approached by a Dearborn police officer. When Ali -- a disabled English Language Learner -- experienced a panic attack, multiple officers assaulted him and he was hospitalized as a result of the attack.
Ernest Griglen was a beloved husband and Navy Veteran who was living with diabetes. In 2008, Ernest Griglen was pulled over while experiencing a hypoglycemic attack. Mistaking his insulin pump for a weapon, Dearborn and Allen Park Police Officers attacked, fracturing his skull. Griglen slipped into a coma from which he never recovered.
The Dearborn Police should not respond to mental health crises or be brought in to provide follow-up care. 2009 - 2019, Dearborn Police responded to 127,483 calls to administer mental health and human services.
Non-Police Mental Health Response is Possible
CAHOOTS, Eugene Oregon. For 30 years, non-police crisis teams have responded to mental and physical health crises.
Caring 4 Denver Initiative, Denver Colorado. This 2018 ballot initiative funds mental health services including prevention, treatment, and response to improve mental health outcomes in Denver.
Divesting from policing makes resources available to reduce mental health crises. Dearborn will spend $48 million on policing in FY2021. The police are the wrong resource to address mental health crises, the city must invest in other options. By shifting 10% of the police department's budget to mental health crisis response ($4.8 million) Dearborn can create a safer, more effective pathway to care for people with mental illness. Learn more about ways you can push our city government to shift our city resources towards non-police solutions.
Additional Reading and Resources
Incarceration Nation, American Psychological Association, 2014
One of the biggest problems with American policing: We rely on cops way too much, German Lopez, 2016
Re-imagining Policing and Mental Health, The Policing Project, 2019