• Bill Raines

Mental Illness and Law Enforcement - Local Law Enforcement Take Crisis Intervention Training

BEDFORD - MAY 18,2022 - Law enforcement officers from Lawrence and Orange County is taking a 40 Hour Course on Crisis Intervention Training at St. Vincent Dunn Hospital.

Law enforcement officers from Lawrence and Orange Counties attend a 40 Hour Course on CIT this week

The Lawrence and Orange County Intervention Team is a community collaboration aimed at building strong relationships between law enforcement, mental health agencies, and advocates.

Due to a lack of mental health crisis services across the United States has resulted in law enforcement officers serving as first responders to the crises.

A (Crisis Intervention Team) CIT program is an innovative, community-based approach to improve outcomes of these encounters.

The program can help keep people out of jail and in treatment.

Representatives from Lawrence County Sheriff's Department, Orange County Sheriff's Department, IU Health Police Department, IU University Police Department, and Solider In Health.

There will be several presenters throughout the week which included Marianne Halbert, Criminal Justice Director NAMI Indiana.

The program is designed to educate law enforcement officers on how to approach and deescalate the situation when engaging a person with mental illness. The goal is to get the person with mental illness into treatment instead of taking them to jail.

Several incidents over the United States have underscored the risks when the police are expected to resolve incidents involving people experiencing crises associated with behavioral health or developmental disorders.

Sometimes the results are tragic, which included the death of Daniel Prude in Rochester, NY, shooting of a 13 year old boy with autism, and the killing of Walter Wallace in Philadelphia.

Most recently in Indiana, Kevin Zimmerman believed that someone was trying to harm him. Upon arrival at the residence, Dunkirk police officers determined that the house was locked. The Dunkirk Police dispatch alerted police that someone was inside the residence called to report that Kevin was armed with two different knives.

A relative on the scene advised that Kevin Zimmerman may have been suffering from sort of mental health issue. The encounter with Dunkirk Police Chief Dane Mumbower and Officer Erica Post was justified in using deadly force against Kevin Zimmerman.

The Dunkirk Police Department came under fire for not deescalating the situation. According to reports by the Indiana State Police Investigation stated that the officers knocked on the door multiple times and announced themselves as police officers.

The officers did not receive a response to a request that Kevin Zimmerman opens the door. Knowing that Kevin Zimmerman was armed with two knives and not knowing the status and safety of other occupants of the home, the officers entered the home.

After officers breached the door, Chief Mumbower, who was armed with his Taser entered first and Officer Post followed behind with her duty weapon drawn. The officers announced themselves as police officers after entering the home and Chief Mumbower heard Keving Zimmerman respond by saying " OK OK come on in". Neither officer could see where Kevin Zimmerman was located. The officers began to command Kevin Zimmerman to come out and show his hands.

As Chief Mumbower continued his entry into the home, he observed Kevin Zimmerman crouching down in the kitchen area of the home. Chief Mumbower made eye contact with Kevin Zimmerman and asked Kevin to come out and talk to the officers. Kevin Zimmerman then immediately leaped up from his position and came running toward Chief Mumbower with both arms raised and a knife in his hand.

The knife was large butcher knife with a 8 inch blade.

As Chief Mumbower began to retreat, Kevin Zimmerman was on top of him. Chief Mumbower deployed his Taser at Kevin and it had no effect. Kevin tackled Chief Mumbower into a corner of the room and wrapped his arms around Chief Mumbower in the back with his hands and arms. Chief Mumbower believed that he was being stabbed by the knife that he saw in Kevin's hand.

After knocking Chief Mumbower to the floor, Kevin Zimmerman immediately began attacking Officer Post, knocking her to the floor and began slashing at her back. At the time both Chief Mumbower and Officer Post fired their service weapons at Kevin Zimmerman as they were in fear that their lives were in danger. Officer Post and other responding officers attempted to provide aid to Kevin Zimmerman including CPR. However despite those efforts and those of emergency responders, Kevin Zimmerman was pronounced deceased at the scene.

People with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than other civilians approached or stopped by law enforcement, according to a new study by the Treatment Advocacy Center.

Numbering fewer than 1 to 50 United States adults, individuals with untreated severe mental illness are in involved in at least 1 in 4 and many as half of all fatal police shootings.

Because of this, reducing encounters between on duty police officers and individuals with the most severe psychiatric diseases may represent the single most immediate, practical strategy for reducing fatal police shootings.

" By dismantling the mental illness treatment system, we have turned mental health crisis from a medical issue into a police matter," said John Snook, executive director and co-author of the study. " This is patently unfair, illogical and is proving harmful both to the individual in desperate need of care and the officer who is forced to respond,"

The report " Overlooked in the Undercounted: Role of Mental Illness in Fatal Law Enforcement Encounters"

Marianne Halbart NAMI Indiana have been instrumental in changing legislation that addresses many of these concerns.

NAMI Indiana seeks and promotes equal access to services and benefits for people living with mental illnesses in both the private and public sectors.

The ultimate goal overtime is to:

  • Restore the mental health system so that individuals with severe mental illness are not left to deteriorate until their actions provoke a police response

  • Fund reliable federal tracking and reporting of all incidents involving the use of deadly force by law enforcement, whether lethal or not

  • Assure that the role of mental illness in fatal police shootings is identified and reported in government data collection.

Lawrence County Zephyr will continue to provide information on this week's CIT training.

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