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Law Enforcement Needs to Take On Mental Illness If It Wants to Reduce the Chances of More Mass Shootings

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

WASHINGTON — Looking at the mass shootings in the U.S. in recent years, from Tucson to Aurora, Colo. from  Columbine to Oak Creek, Wisc., two things become apparent: The gunmen all had easy access to guns and they all had severe psychological problems.

I won’t address the issue of the guns. Not in this column.

But I want to address the issue of mental illness.

Law enforcement has to recognize this as a crime problem.

Law enforcement needs to partner with social services and psychiatric agencies and address mental illness in this country that is being played out in such deadly ways these days.

When states cut budgets, social services and mental health facilities often take hits. That means more untreated mental illness or people going without their meds.   That potentially opens us up for the next Aurora or Sikh temple shooting. That should be unacceptable.  Law enforcement should let that be known.

As early as elementary school, we can often identify problem children. Teachers and counselors need to play a bigger role in identifying those kids.  Law enforcement needs to make sure funding and  treatment is there.

In junior high, I could already see that some of my classmates were destined for trouble. One ended up being fatally shot during an armed robbery right after high school graduation. Another had the distinction of being known as “the west side rapist.”

Not to suggest addressing mental illness is the end-all solution.  But it is  part of the solution.

Law enforcement needs to recognize that.  Responding to the massacres  isn’t good enough.  We can’t keep watching these massacres unfold and simply wonder why.


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Comment from carlj
Time November 19, 2012 at 9:15 am

It’s not just about mass killings–mental illness has been a huge issue for policing since the de-institutionalization movement that began in the 60s and took off in the 70s. Jails often become the de facto institutions for the mentally ill.

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