An Austin, Texas, man called 9-1-1 early Sunday morning, crying, and reportedly sounding suicidal. Instead of showing up and saving the man’s life, the police decided to take it themselves.
When officers arrived to do a welfare check on the man, Richard Munroe, a 25-year-old white man, they claim that he had a weapon in his waistband.
“Officers observed this, gave him commands but the individual did not comply immediately,” APD Chief of Staff Brian Manley said in a statement to press. “Officers used a Taser but it was ineffective and the man went back inside.”
When the man returned and opened his door back up, the police claim that he had what appeared to be self inflicted wounds on his arms. Officers on the scene called for medical assistance at this point, but he would be dead before they could arrive.
“The subject then reached for his weapon instead of complying,” explained Manley. “The officers at that point fired at the suspect in fear for their safety.”
The department has confirmed that three officers shot at the troubled man. Their names are Stephen Johnson, Matthew Murphy and John Nelson. All have been placed on administrative leave. None have been with the department more than a year.
“This is not anything any officer ever wants to be involved in, having to take a life. But unfortunately, our officers were put in circumstances today where that took place,” said Manley.
Nationwide, police have shot and killed 124 people this year who were in the throes of mental or emotional crisis, according to a Washington Post analysis, which amounts to one quarter of all people shot by police this year. Over 50 of those were people who were known to be suicidal. They noted that on average, someone in a mental crisis was shot by police every 36 hours in the first six months of this year.
“This group was more likely to wield a weapon less lethal than a firearm. Six had toy guns; 3 in 10 carried a blade, such as a knife or a machete — weapons that rarely prove deadly to police officers. According to data maintained by the FBI and other organizations, only three officers have been killed with an edged weapon in the past decade.” The Washington Post reported.
The mentally ill “do not process what is happening like a normal criminal,” Sandy Jo MacArthur is an assistant chief who oversees “mental response teams” for the Los Angeles Police Department, told the Post. “There’s a lot of white noise in their head.”
Yet, Crisis Intervention Training, training which teaches officers valuable deescalation skills in situations involving the mentally ill or people who are in the midst of a mental crisis, is still not a requirement for all police officers.
A study released last year by the American Psychiatric Association found that officers who undergo Crisis Intervention Training “had sizable and persisting improvements in knowledge, diverse attitudes about mental illnesses and their treatments, self-efficacy for interacting with someone with psychosis or suicidality, social distance stigma, de-escalation skills and referral decisions.”
In many states, police only receive six hours training in the police academy on dealing with disabilities. The time is divided to cover physical, developmental, and mental disabilities. Crisis Intervention Training on deescalation tactics, is not required.
It is definitely time officers start spending as much time learning ways to deescalate situations as they do on the shooting range.