SHREVEPORT, La. - Thirty to 40% of 911 calls received by Shreveport police are mental health related.
"Police officers are dealing with a lot more people who have mental health issues and quite often unfortunately that could lead to use of force encounters and escalate the level of violence that could be used between law enforcement and citizens," said Police Chief Ben Raymond.
Raymond said it's part of the reason why department is planning to collaborate with local mental health non profit organizations and agencies to better respond to calls related to mental health situations.
"So we're going to kind of work in conjunction with mental health experts so that we have better encounters with citizens, less violent encounters with citizens and overall just provide better service," Raymond said.
Shreveport is in the planning stages. A trial run of the initiative could allow mental health experts to go into the communities with police. Experts would be available and on call 24-7 to respond to both police and residents.
The city's plans came less than a year after the Tommie McGlothen Jr. case.
"I think certainly, you can't talk about mental health issues locally without the Tommie McGlothen case coming up," said Raymond.
Relatives of McGlothen, 44, said he was suffering from a mental illness when he died in April 2020. He fought with Shreveport police officers as they investigated an attempted car burglary on Eileen Lane near Cross Lake.
Four officers were indicted on charges that their actions caused McGlothen's death.
"Although I'm not going to speak specifically about that case, it's ongoing criminal litigation at this point, it does lend itself to the conversation that we deal with people on a daily basis who have mental health conditions and that perhaps or not perhaps, there are certainly people that are better trained at dealing specifically at mental health problems than police," Raymond said.
The city is accepting proposals from mental health groups on how to best respond in the community. Seedlinks Behavioral Management Chief Executive Officer Ryan Williams gave the city his proposal.
"What we want to try to do is we want to create a unit that is responsible for taking the mental health calls and giving the feedback to SPD and providing the resources and training to SPD and also to the community," said Williams.
San Antonio and Houston have similar crisis intervention teams. The trial run in Shreveport is expected to start in the coming months.
Raymond said the city's community development office is working to help find federal funding for the program.