Advocates of Mentally Ill Want More Training for Boston Police

By Sarah Birnbaum

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Feb. 3, 2012

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A new report calls for increasing funds to better train Boston police officers dealing with the mentally ill. (Velkr0/Flickr)



BOSTON—In July 2010, Carol Kingsley was shot dead by the Somerville Massachusetts police. She had a long history of mental illness and violence and had recently been released from Cambridge Hospital’s psych ward.  Police officers arrived at her house after responding to a domestic disturbance call. She allegedly grabbed a knife, barricaded herself in a bathroom and wounded the officers before being shot dead.

Mental health advocates, like Vic Digravio of the Association for Behavioral Health Care, say police officers across the commonwealth lack the training to handle the mentally ill, often arresting people, rather than getting them the treatment they need.

“If somebody is being disruptive but its clear that they are struggling with a mental illness, arresting them and putting them in jail is probably not the best way to do it," Digravio said.

The new report recommends the state increase funding for special officer training programs. Laurie Martinelli is with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, a cosponsor of the report:

"The commonwealth has to put money into this," Martinelli said. "This isn’t just going to happen. So it's 3 million dollars that we’re recommending of new money that would be available to cities and towns to train their police to know how to recognize and deal with mental illness in a way that prevents people from being arrested that shouldn’t be."

But facing another tough budget year, Martinelli says getting the funding will be an uphill battle.

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