Police killings are reported inconsistently, if at all, across jurisdictions — a fact that many critics, including the FBI director, have pointed out in recent months. There's no comprehensive tracking of deaths at the hands of police. Among the reports that are logged, an understanding of the victims' mental status is even less clear.People with mental issues confronting police officers who are poorly equipped to help them is a problem, but a failure to get treatment is at its root. In some states, Snook said, mentally ill individuals can't be treated unless they personally seek help, or until they have become a danger to themselves or others."So what we're seeing is more and more of these incidents where a person is obviously ill, his family has tried to get them help, and nothing can be done until they're so dangerous that they have to call the police, and unfortunately those situations often end in tragedy," he explained. "You basically have families sitting there, knowing this person is a ticking time bomb, and there's nothing they can do for them until they get so sick that they're not only dangerous but they are a clear and present danger. Then the family calls the treatment professionals and they say, 'We can't do anything now that they're clear and present danger, you have to call the police.' "
'This is the worst part of their job, because they know this isn't a criminal, and that they're dealing with someone they shouldn't have to deal with. But the system has failed that person and the police department is stuck trying to figure something out.'
Departments with the most resources have officers go through different versions of crisis intervention training, learning about de-escalation, communication, and containment strategies similar to those used in hostage situations.Some officers are given training to help them understand individuals with mental illness. They wear headphones that mimic the audio delusions a schizophrenic or psychotic person might hear, and have other officers try to give them commands."They realize how difficult it is to follow even simple directions when you have someone else yelling in your ear," said Snook.More often, they are trained to use non-lethal alternatives to gunfire, like Tasers and Mace. But even officers who receive some training are quick to escalate certain situations."There's a tendency to skip the less lethal alternatives. Again, there's a data shortage, but we have a number of instances where it seems like the gun is the first weapon chosen," Claudia Center, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union who specializing in disability rights, told VICE News. "It's good to have the Taser and the Mace but those are also very aggressive — they can be life-preserving but they can also be part of the escalation. They're not a magic pill."
'One of the biggest things is not rushing, taking time, and that is very, very contrary to police culture.'