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Amid outcry, states push mental health training for police

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Amid outcry, states push mental health training for police

The officer who Cassandra Quinto-Collins says kneeled on her son’s neck for over four minutes assured her it was standard protocol for sedating a person experiencing a mental breakdown.

“I was there watching it the whole time,” Quinto-Collins told The Associated Press. “I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.”

Angelo Quinto’s sister had called 911 for help calming him down during an episode of paranoia on Dec. 23. His family says Quinto didn’t resist the Antioch, California, officers — one who pushed his knee on the back of his neck and another who restrained his legs — and the only noise he made was when he twice cried out, “Please don’t kill me.”

The officers replied, “We’re not going to kill you,” the family said. Police deny putting pressure on his neck. Three days later, the 30-year-old Navy veteran and Filipino immigrant died at a hospital.

It is the latest stark example of the perils of policing people with mental health issues. In response to several high-profile deaths of people with mental health issues in police custody, lawmakers in at least eight states are introducing legislation to change how law enforcement agencies respond to those in crisis.

The proposals lean heavily on additional training for officers on how to interact with people with mental health problems. It’s a common response when lawmakers face widespread outcry over police brutality like the US saw last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But none of the proposals appear to address the root question: Should police be the ones responding when someone is mentally ill?

In California, lawmakers introduced legislation on Feb. 11 that, among other things, would require prospective officers to complete college courses that address mental health, social services and psychology, without requiring a degree.

In New York, lawmakers in January proposed an effort to require law enforcement to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours of training that would include techniques on de-escalation and interacting with people who have mental health issues.

The proposal came nearly a year after Rochester, New York, officers put a spit hood over Daniel Prude’s head and pressed his naked body against the street until he stopped breathing. The victim’s family, like Quinto’s, said they had called 911 for help after Prude, who is Black, began having a mental health episode.

Similarly, in Utah, the mother of 13-year-old Linden Cameron called 911 in September because he was having a breakdown and she needed help from a crisis intervention officer. Salt Lake City police ended up shooting him multiple times as he ran away because they believed he made threats involving a weapon.

He was hospitalized and no weapon was found. The officers were not crisis intervention specialists but had some mental health training.

Last month, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed legislation that will create a council to standardize training for police crisis intervention teams statewide.

At least 34 states already require officers to have training or other education on interacting with people who have physical or mental health conditions. But law enforcement experts say updated training is needed and agencies are far behind.

“The training that police have received for the past I’d say 25 years has not changed significantly and it’s out of date and it doesn’t meet today’s realities,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank. “I mean the last thing a mother wants when they call the police is for an officer to use force. Especially in a situation that didn’t call for it because the officers weren’t trained in how to recognize a crisis.”

Some of the new legislation looks to strengthen or improve standards. But because mental health training is a mandate in a majority of states, some advocates and experts believe it may never fully prepare officers on how to respond.

The Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to getting treatment for the mentally ill, concluded in a 2015 report those with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than others.

“The solution that would have the most impact on the problem is to prevent people with mental illness from encountering law enforcement in the first place,” said Elizabeth Sinclair Hancq, co-author of the report.

Since that is not always possible, she said, another solution is to create co-responder programs where a social worker or other mental health professional assists officers on such calls.

That is what Philadelphia introduced in October, weeks before officers fatally shot Walter Wallace Jr., a Black man, within a minute of arriving at his address for the third time in a day while he was having a mental health crisis. Police said Wallace ignored commands to drop a knife.

Other cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon, have similar programs.

For families of victims, who now say they regret calling 911 for help, required training and legislative reform are long overdue.

“In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest idea to call the police,” said Isabella Collins, the 18-year-old sister of Quinto, who died in California. “But I just wanted him to be able to calm down and I thought that they could help with that.”

Antioch police didn’t release details of Quinto’s death for more than a month. Police Chief Tammany Brooks has denied that officers used a knee or anything else to put pressure on Quinto’s head, neck or throat. An investigation and autopsy are underway.

The department didn’t respond to a request for comment.

Quinto’s family filed a wrongful-death claim against the city in February, claiming he “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him.”

“I guess it was really naive of me to think that he wouldn’t get hurt,” Collins said.

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School raising funds for beloved service dog’s surgeries

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School raising funds for beloved service dog's surgeries

A Maine elementary school is rallying to give a beloved service dog a new leash on life.

Ory, a 16-month-old professional pup who works in the Willard School’s special education department, was diagnosed with hip dysplasia, degenerative hips, and torn ACLs in both knees, according to WMTW.

Ory works with special needs students at the school, helping to calm them during moments of emotional turmoil.

Now the Sanford community is pitching in to help fund the three surgeries that are needed to get her back in the classroom.

“Ory has had a rough go of it as she has already had ectopic ureter surgery in the fall and has recovered well from it,” a GoFundMe page aiming to raise $20,000 for the dog reads.

“The [hip] surgery] will ensure Ory [lives] a long, healthy and fulfilling life free from pain,” Jess Jones, an Ed Tech at the Willard School, wrote.

By Thursday night, more than three quarters of the funds had been raised, and a paw-fect ending was in sight.

“Ory will be meeting with her surgeon on Monday for a consultation,” an update from the grateful organizer read.

“She’s only 16 months and she deserves that opportunity to have a great life. The vet said her life will be amazing once this is done and dealt with,” Christen Suratt, a teacher who works with Ory, told the local station.

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Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

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Study finds that blocking seats on planes reduces virus risk

A new study says leaving middle seats open could give airline passengers more protection from the virus that causes COVID-19.

Researchers said the risk of passengers being exposed to the virus from an infected person on the plane could be reduced by 23 percent to 57 percent if middle seats are empty, compared with a full flight.

The study released Wednesday supports the response of airlines that limited seating early in the pandemic. However, all US airlines except Delta now sell every seat they can and Delta will stop blocking middle seats on May 1.

The airlines argue that filters and air-flow systems on most planes make them safe when passengers wear face masks, as they are now required to do by federal regulation.

Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kansas State University estimated how far airborne virus particles travel inside a plane. They used mannequins that emitted aerosol to measure the flow of virus particles through airline cabin mock-ups.

The study, however, did not take into account the wearing of face masks because it was based on a previous study done in 2017, before the pandemic.

Nor did it consider whether passengers are vaccinated against COVID-19. The CDC says vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, although the agency still recommends against nonessential travel.

Airlines for America, a trade group for the largest US carriers, said airlines use several layers of measures to prevent the spread of the virus on planes, including face masks, asking passengers about their health and stepped-up cleaning of cabins. The group cited a Harvard University report funded by the airline industry as showing that the risk of transmitting the coronavirus on planes is very low.

Airlines were divided last year over filling middle seats. While Delta, Southwest, Alaska and JetBlue limited seating on planes, United Airlines never did and American Airlines only blocked seats for a short time. It was mostly an academic question, because relatively few flights last year were crowded. That is changing.

More than 1 million travelers have gone through US airports each day for the past month. While that is still down more than one-third from the same period in 2019, more flights now are crowded. Around Easter weekend, Delta temporarily filled middle seats to accommodate passengers whose original flights were canceled because of staffing shortages.

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

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Millennials can now afford homeownership, causing a shortage

So close, and yet so far. 

As various factors finally make homeownership attainable for frequently maligned millennials, a new hurdle has appeared: Not enough houses to go around. 

According to recent findings by investment bank Jefferies, younger millennials between ages 25 and 29 are increasingly buying their first pads, and 30- to 34-year-olds are doing so at even higher rates, Insider reported. 

The only problem is there aren’t enough starter homes available, an issue that’s existed since before the coronavirus pandemic and is a result of profit-seeking real-estate investors buying the pads, increasingly expensive construction costs and more restrictive zoning rules. 

Despite being much less economically well-off than previous generations were at their age, millennials in fact led home-buying in 2020, significantly motivated by the pandemic. According to an Apartment List’s Homeownership report, 40 percent of the age group now own homes, while a Clever Real Estate survey notes that 30 percent started house-hunting earlier than planned due to COVID-19. 

But unless contractors can somehow quickly construct 2.5 million homes — the amount America is short on, according to Jefferies — in the next year, millennials may be left holding yet another form of unfortunate financial cards. 

In another recent real estate boom significantly inspired by the pandemic, sales of homes built more than 100 years ago rose by 16 percent in 2020 in the tri-state area compared to last year, with a median sale price of $236,000, The Post reported earlier this month. 

Not booming during that same period, however, were New York City pads, which saw a 6 percent overall sales decline. That trend has a few notable exceptions, however, including Brooklyn townhouses — for which demand is relatively sky-high.

“I have seen more demand for brownstones, too, especially in Brooklyn, where the market seems to be on fire. There is more demand for properties with outdoor space, and bigger apartments where buyers can carve out home office space as well,” Melissa Cohn, an executive mortgage banker at William Raveis Mortgage, told The Post this month.

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