OKLAHOMA CITY – Senator Jim Inhofe (R – Oklahoma) is hoping to tackle a tough topic for authorities across the nation – mental illness in suspects.
It’s something law enforcement officers across the country are encountering daily.
“These individuals, who are law enforcement officers are people who are risking their lives, and one of the risks that is out there are those who have mental problems,” Inhofe said.
But, it’s not just on the streets.
“We also operate a jail facility, and there’s a large percentage of people that are in our jails – the residents – that suffer from mental health issues,” said Canadian County Sheriff Chris West.
So, how do you handle someone whose mental health is in crisis?
“We’re expected to do it with care, compassion, knowledge of professionalism, and we’ve come a long way in the last two decades in accomplishing that but we have a long way to go,” said Mark Nelson, vice president of the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police.
That long way to go is where Inhofe is hoping to bridge the gap – drafting legislation to provide training to law enforcement officers – teaching them how to handle suspects suffering from mental illness.
To participate, local law enforcement agencies will apply for grants for the training.
It’s an idea getting support from the Oklahoma Fraternal Order of Police as well as sheriffs.
“This is the kind of leadership that those of us in law enforcement not just here in Oklahoma but across the country so very desperately need,” West said.
Inhofe said the legislation will be activated through federal funding.
It’s set for a Monday evening introduction.