New Policies Could Change How Cleveland Police Deal with the Mentally Ill

By Eric Heisig, Cleveland Plain Dealer (Jan. 20, 2017)

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland police monitor is asking a federal judge to approve a proposed set of crisis intervention policies officers will have to follow in encounters with the mentally ill.

The final draft of the new policies were filed late Thursday in federal court in Cleveland. The goal with the new policies is to reduce the number of people in jail with mental health issues and to steer them toward the help they need. Officials also seek to minimize the use of force during officers' encounters with the mentally ill.

The proposed policies include several changes that have already taken place but were never memorialized in writing, officials said. While giving police a lot of latitude, the policies also lay out clear steps officers would have to take when dealing with a person who suffers from mental illness.

Police monitor Matthew Barge praised the work the city, its Mental Health Response Advisory Committee and others did in crafting the new policies, He wrote that the policies and the collaboration that went into them "represent critical milestones," the motion says.

"Consequently, it is fair to conclude that not only were the specific substantive requirements of the Consent Decree (met) but also that the City moved closer to upholding its commitments to 'provide for civilian participation in and oversight of the police' and 'increase transparency," the motion states.

The new policies are mandated in a settlement the city reached with the Justice Department to address constitutional policing. The Justice Department said Cleveland police officers were ill equipped to deal with the mentally ill.

While not included in the Justice Department's review, the most recent controversial incident involved Tanisha Anderson, who died with her hands cuffed behind her back while she was being placed in the back of a police car in November 2014. The two officers involved are the subject of a criminal investigation that, more than two years after Anderson died, has not yet been concluded.

The new policies mandate the creation of a new Crisis Intervention Team that is made up of specially-trained officers. It also tweaks how dispatchers call out officers to deal with the mentally ill and gives guidance on involuntary hospitalization and how to transport people.

Finally, the new policies would emphasize using techniques to de-escalate as much as possible.

Drafts were publicly unveiled in November and were the subject of two public meetings in December.

Barge wrote that additions were made with suggestions that came out of the public meetings. They included adding more details on how to transport people in crisis who are not being violent, sections on how to deal with juveniles and having officers specially trained to handle crises to be clearly marked.

The policies also now emphasize respect and dignity and building relationships between police and the community, Barge wrote.

http://www.cleveland.com/court-justice/index.ssf/2017/01/new_policies_could_change_how.html