DearColleague.us

Letter

 

From: The Honorable Robin L. Kelly
Sent By:
Zachary.Ostro@mail.house.gov

Date: 3/31/2017

**This is a language request**

 

Cosponsors: Napolitano, Meeks, Norcorss, Moore, Cummings, Carson, Norton, Blumenauer, Castor, Lujan Grisham, McNerney, Hank Johnson, Hastings, Foster, Lawrence, Lynch, Butterfield, Jackson Lee, Y. Clarke, D. Davis, Conyers, Kuster, B. Lee, Plaskett, DeSaulnier
, Al Green, F. Wilson, Torres, Watson Coleman

 

Dear Colleague,

 

For 21 years, COPS grants have provided vital resources to state and local police forces to establish partnerships with communities, to ensure that when law enforcement officers serve and protect, they do so with a full understanding of their community’s
needs. One community, however, where mutual understanding and trust can increase is with police officers and citizens with mental and behavioral health disorders, and their loved ones.

 

A 2012 incident in Calumet City, Illinois highlights the need for such training.  In responding to a 9-1-1 call, police officers came upon Stephon Watts – a 15 year old child with autism – armed with a butter knife.  Responding to Stephon’s outburst, the
police used fatal force against Stephon in self-defense.  The police were aware that Stephon was diagnosed with autism, as they had been called to the Watts residence a few times before this final incident.  However, the officers failed to utilize de-escalation
techniques needed when handling children with mental or behavioral disorders.

 

Unfortunately, Stephon’s case is not an isolated incident; more than one-in-four fatal police shootings involve those with mental disorders.  Standard police techniques, in these situations, have the potential to exacerbate hostilities, increasing chances
of confrontation due to a lack of understanding about the necessary communication methods for handling the mentally ill.
That is why we invite you in joining us in signing the bellow letter to the Commerce, Justice and Science Subcommittee urging priority for COPs grants be given to forces that integrate behavioral and mental health training into their officer programming.

 

If you would like to sign on or if you have any questions about this letter, please contact Zachary Ostro with Rep. Kelly’s office at 5-0773 or
Zachary.Ostro@mail.house.gov.
The deadline to sign onto this letter is 5pm March 31, 2017. 

 

Sincerely,

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

April 4, 2017

 

 

The Honorable John Culberson

Chairman

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

H-310, the Capitol

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

The Honorable José Serrano

Active Ranking Member

Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies

2354 Rayburn House Office Building

Washington, D.C. 20515

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Chairman Culberson and Ranking Member Serrano,

 

As the subcommittee develops priorities for the FY 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science and Related Agencies, we respectfully urge you to prioritize the Committee’s responsibility to ensure law enforcement’s effective response towards individuals with mental
and behavioral health disorders.  Since its establishment in 1994, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program has enabled law enforcement to develop vital partnerships that strengthen bonds and help law enforcement to understand the unique challenges
and needs of their communities.  However, violent, and often fatal, interactions between police and individuals with mental or behavioral health disorders are evidence that another community must be addressed, and more can be done to ensure increased mutual
trust between police officers and the communities they bravely serve.  We request that the subcommittee include language in the appropriations bill that prioritizes Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants for law enforcement agencies that
incorporate evidence-informed mental and behavioral health training into their officer programs.

 

A 2012 incident in Calumet City, Illinois highlights the need for such training.  In responding to a 9-1-1 call, police officers came upon Stephan Watts – a 15 year old child with autism – armed with a butter knife.  Responding to Stephon’s outburst, the
police used fatal force against Stephon in self-defense.  The police were aware that Stephon was diagnosed with autism, as they had been called to the Watts residence a few times before this final incident.  However, the officers failed to utilize de-escalation
techniques needed when handling children with mental or behavioral disorders.  Unfortunately, Stephon’s case is not an isolated incident; more than one-in-four fatal police shootings involve those with mental disorders.  Standard police techniques, these situations,
have the potential to exacerbate hostilities, increasing chances of confrontation due to lack of understanding about the necessary communication methods for handling the mentally ill.

 

For 21 years, the COPS program has proven itself successful in bringing together law enforcement and their communities, encouraging open communication about how to address local enforcement needs.  Knowing the success of past COPS programs, prioritizing
COPS grants for law enforcement agencies that incorporate evidence-informed mental and behavioral health training demonstrates the government’s commitment to addressing the senseless suffering of these vulnerable individuals, and furthers the program’s vital
efforts.

 

While we understand the difficult financial decisions we must make in Washington, we appreciate your consideration of this request, and strongly urge you to include language prioritizing COPS grants for police departments that incorporate evidence-informed
mental and behavioral health training into their officer programs for the FY 2018 Committee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies appropriations bill.