Police shootings of mentally-ill highlight lack of services, training for crisis intervention

Posted at 6:40 PM, Jun 11, 2014
and last updated 2014-06-11 18:40:11-04

Norfolk, Va. - Two mentally ill men, both shot dead by Norfolk police in a two day span.

The outcry from the public led the Chief of Police to appear before news cameras this week, but his responses left much to be desired from members of the Norfolk City council, who criticized the department's actions at their meeting Tuesday night.

“We have two individuals who died because our police officers did not have training they deserve to have,” said Councilman Paul Riddick.

“Whenever an officer takes a life, we have to make sure it’s the last resort, that it’s necessary. Is it justifiable or is it necessary? We can justify it a lot, but is it necessary? Was there another course of action that could have been taken where the individuals walk away?” said Councilwoman Angelia Williams.

For years, the City of Norfolk has been behind the curve on staffing what are known Crisis Intervention Teams.

Made up of specially trained police officers and mental health professionals, they intervene in and de-escalate situations involving the mentally ill.

Every other city in Hampton Roads has them, except for Norfolk.

“Six cities in region got funding, for some reason Norfolk did not apply for that funding,” said Councilman Riddick.

Councilwoman Williams says that might have to do with problems at the troubled Community Services Board over the years.

“We have had changes in leadership at CSB, because we've had our own share of issues with CSB,” said Williams.

Now, with increased funding from the city council, along with state grants, the City of Norfolk tells NewsChannel 3 they are now working towards creation of these Crisis Intervention Teams.

They started training police officers 7 months ago, with 8 fully certified right now, and they are working towards opening an assessment center where mentally ill patients can be taken for evaluation by September 1st.