Except of an Article by Tami Abdollah and Sam Hananel | Associated Press
LOS ANGELES (AP) — The police shooting in Georgia of a naked, unarmed man with bipolar disorder spotlights the growing number of violent confrontations between police and the mentally ill — an issue that goes before the Supreme Court.
At least half the people police killed each year have mental health problems, according to a 2013 report from the Treatment Advocacy Center and the National Sheriffs’ Association. The nation’s highest court will consider how police must comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act when dealing with armed or violent people who have psychiatric problems or other disabilities.
The case involves a 2008 incident in San Francisco in which police responded to a call from a group home for the mentally ill. A resident who suffers from schizophrenia, Teresa Sheehan, threatened to kill her social worker with a knife and locked herself in her room. The social worker asked the police to help restrain Sheehan and get her to a hospital where she could be treated.
The incident ended with officers forcing their way into Sheehan’s room and shooting after she charged them with the knife. She survived and filed a lawsuit, claiming police had a duty under the ADA to consider her mental illness and take more steps to avoid a violent confrontation.
Deputy City Attorney Christine Van Aken told the court, “If the individual presents a significant threat, then no accommodation is required. Even if an armed suspect ignored an officer’s command to put his hands up because he was deaf, and the officer knew that, she said, the officer would nevertheless be entitled to shoot the suspect if necessary to protect public safety.”
U.S. Supreme Court justices seemed inclined to give police some leeway in dealing with mentally ill, potentially violent suspects.
A ruling is due by the end of June 2015. The case is San Francisco vs. Sheehan, 13-1412.
Thanks to Tami Abdollah and Sam Hananel for writing the article; Associated Press for committing its resources to publishing the article; U.S. News & World Report for featuring the article; Google for helping me find the article; and all the people who, directly or indirectly, made it possible for me to include the picture and text I used in this post.