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Report: Mental health, police-involved shootings linked

January 14, 2019
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This photo taken April 17, 2018, shows observers in the Court organizer Marcina Cole rallying a group gathered outside Oak Park City Hall on Tuesday calling to "Stop Police Terrorism and Stop Gun Violence" in the wake of recent fatal police-involved shootings of mentally ill men. Robert G. Issa, 23 of Troy, was fatally shot outside his home April 9 when officers responded to a call about his violent and erratic behavior. Todd Stone, 48, also suffered from bipolar disorder and was fatally shot by Oak Park police in his home in December of 2017. (Tanya Moutzalias/Ann Arbor News via AP)

DETROIT (AP) — Mental illness was a factor in many law enforcement conflicts in Michigan that resulted in the deaths of police officers or civilians in recent years, according to a review by a news organization.

MLive.com reviewed police reports, court records and newspaper archives to find that 33 of the 87 people killed by police in Michigan in that time had signs or a history of mental illness. MLive.com’s review of the 43 police officers who were slain in the past two decades found that 13 were killed by people who showed signs of mental illness.

Many of the deaths could have been prevented with better mental-health treatment, according to mental-health advocates and law-enforcement officials.

Police officials said they’re working to better train officers to defuse tense situations. Police in Michigan and across the U.S. are more often using crisis intervention teams, which pair law enforcement with mental-health professionals.

Sgt. Matt Warzywak teaches the Michigan State Police Training Division’s “Managing the Mental Health Crisis: A Patrol Response” course, which teaches new recruits how to assess mental illness and how to interact with individuals.

Warzywak, a 14-year state police veteran, said there’s been a shift to how law enforcement approaches mental illness. He said he was trained to take action during situations, but the focus now is to slow down when it’s safe.

“So what we’re teaching now is take more time, use your verbal skills to try and de-escalate the situation, rather than just rushing in and taking action,” Warzywak said.

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This story has been corrected to show that MLive.com is a news organization, not a newspaper.

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Information from: The Grand Rapids Press:MLive.com, http://www.mlive.com

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