Dontre Hamilton and Why Police Need Crisis Intervention Training

December 23, 2014
Kendra Stea
Two pairs of hands clasped together.

A rock and a hard place: where I find myself sitting these days.

You see, my brother is a police officer and my life work is about reducing stigma and improving treatment for those with mental illness.

As a resident of the city of Milwaukee, a place in the cosmos where law enforcement and the treatment of persons with mental illnesses converges with a fury, I am left wondering.

I wonder what would be different if all law enforcement officers were trained in CIT or something similar—hell, why not Nonviolent Crisis Intervention® training? There are successful models out there—check out San Antonio, for example. Yet countless members of our law enforcement community have not been offered this training. My brother is one of them.

I wonder what would happen in a world where mental health parity was fully implemented as it is mandated to be. Would more people deemed “noncompliant” with medications be seen more fairly as who they are—people who are really being blocked from treatment by inadequate interpretation of the insurance coverage offered, or people who are really having trouble accessing services due to a lack of qualified providers in the community?

I wonder what would happen if the citizens of my city were interested in not only the equal treatment of minorities in our city, but the education of all people about the diseases that plague so many of our residents. Would the staff at Starbucks ever have called the police? Or would they have walked over with a cup of coffee and asked Dontre his name?

As I’ve sat with this news, watching things play out over the media, I am struck by the amount of fear that is driving this all.

Fear is rarely productive—instead it causes us to have an inability to act or react; it causes us to fail in our attempts to hear one another and truly understand each other’s points of view; and it causes us to over- and under-react to situations. I wonder if we eliminated the fear, which in my opinion comes from what we don’t “know,” if we’d find a different way?

This issue is not unique to Milwaukee. Stigma is not unique to Milwaukee. Abuse of power is not unique to Milwaukee. Law enforcement officers facing incredibly dangerous situations is not unique to Milwaukee. A failure to provide quality treatment for those suffering with mental illness is not unique to Milwaukee. A failure to “hear” and to “understand” the complexities of this situation is not unique to Milwaukee.

But maybe, just maybe, the solution can be found here in Milwaukee.

Also read: Where Do We Go From Here?

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