Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Forum Criticizes Houston Police Dept.'s Mental Health Response

http://chron.com/disp/story.mpl/metropolitan/5032429.htmlTuesday, Aug. 7, 2007

Quanell X forum criticizes HPD mental health response
By DALE LEZON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Quanell X held a town hall meeting Monday in southeast Houston, hoping to call attention to mental health issues as he criticized the Houston Police Department's recent efforts to defuse crisis situations involving unstablepeople.

At least three people have been killed by HPD officers in the past several months, including last week's shooting death of Reginald Sumbler, 21. Sumbler, who called authorities July 31 and told them he planned to commit suicide, died during a standoff near his home in south Houston. HPD officials said the officers fired only after Sumbler pointed a pistol at them and shot in their direction.

"Is it safe to call HPD when you have mentally ill loved ones?" Quanell asked a crowd of about 100 at the New Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church at 12707 Cullen.A panel of mental-health professionals, lawyers and the families of people recently killed by HPD officers during confrontations answered questions about handling mentally unstable relatives. "It's a big responsibility for the family," Joseph L. Jefferson, a psychotherapist, said. "Make sure he takes his medications."

The forum also covered the process for HPD dispatchers to route emergency calls about mentally unstable people. Calls should be routed so police officers dispatched are trained to peacefully defuse the confrontations, Quanell X said.HPD Capt. Bruce Williams said about 500 officers are trained by the Crisis Intervention Team to respond to mentally ill suspects. He said HPD would liketo send a CIT-trained officers for all mentally ill suspects but does not have the manpower. dale.lezon@chron.com
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Learn more about the Crisis Intervention Team Model, which was pioneered by the Memphis Police Department in 1988 and has since been adopted in hundreds of communities around the United States.

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