Increased training could help avoid fatal police shootings

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Dec 8, 2017 4:40 AM

FILE PHOTO: A man who shot at state police troopers in Hopewell Township early Monday morning died from his injuries after police returned fire, officials said. (Photo: Paul Kuehnel, York Daily Record)

(Harrisburg) -- State Police troopers recently resolved a stand-off with an armed man in Dauphin County by taking him for mental health treatment.

An increase in training may have kept the situation from turning tragic.

About a quarter of people shot and killed by police nationwide are suffering from a mental illness, according to a database maintained by The Washington Post.

Oftentimes, the blame is placed on a lack of training.

State Police Corporal Adam Reed said an emphasis has been placed on training troopers to better recognize mental health issues.

He said the agency employs a psychiatrist to work with academy cadets in Hershey, and teach refresher courses to troopers.

"That involves how to effectively work and respond to incidents involving special needs folks and even how to determine if somebody is suffering from something like PTSD," Reed said. 

So far this year, State Police fatally shot three people who showed signs of a mental illness, including one in Stewartstown. The York County district attorney ruled the shooting was justified because the man had fired a gun at troopers. 

State Police also took more than 1,300 people into treatment.

Some of those cases are because family members want help getting a loved one into a mental health facility.

"We call it a 302 warrant," Reed said. "It acts in the same way as an arrest warrant does, only instead of taking them to prison we are taking them to the mental health facility."

Since January, State Police have issued 11 of the warrants in Cumberland County, 23 in Dauphin County, 14 in Lancaster County, and 32 in York County. 

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