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Column: Ex-FBI Agent Says Law Enforcement Needs to Address Mental Illness

John Kerr, an FBI  agent for nearly 22 years, investigated violent crime and counterterrorism.  He retired from the bureau in Washington in December 2008. His column is in response to a ticklethewire.com column that commented on the mass shootings in this country and the need for law enforcement to look at mental illness as a crime problem.

By John Kerr
For ticklethewire.com

In the late 90’s in the Washington D.C. area, we started noticing an increase in the number of guns being seized that were in the hands of those with some very disturbing mental issues.

When we started digging into how can we prevent them from being able to purchase guns, we were surprised by two things: 1) How amenable ATF was in adding folks to their list and entering names into the system and 2) How reluctant mental health officials were in proclaiming an individual as a possible threat.

I think Law Enforcements attitude has been one of which that LE (law enforcement) is not qualified to make that determination, therefore we will wait until we are notified by the experts.

You are spot on in your assessment that this can no longer be the mindset. LE needs to address it as they did problems within a High School. Assign a school resource officer… He quickly learns who are the potential problem children and is able to get them help, prevent them from doing bad things or force the school to eliminate him. LE should go after the Mental Health community the same way. Force them to accept a shared responsibility in the effort.

Force them to change the policy of silence and privacy by giving them an individual or group to direct a name and render an opinion. I disagree that LE needs to wake up. This is something that they are acutely aware of … They have been held back by politics, law suits and a mental health community that has stuck it’s head in the sand.

The LE community needs to stop waiting for Drs and counselors to do the right thing and start forcing them to work together. You would have hoped that the Virginia Tech shootings would have stirred the debate more. The mental health community got a free pass again.


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