Justice Dept. focuses on police treatment of mentally ill

(AP) – Justice Department lawyers investigating police agencies for racial discrimination and excessive force are increasingly finding a different problem: officers’ interactions with the mentally ill.

The latest example came in Baltimore.
 
A harshly critical report this month found that city officers end up in unnecessarily violent confrontations with mentally disabled people who in many instances haven’t even committed crimes.
 
Though past federal investigations have addressed the problem, the Baltimore report marked the first time the Justice Department has explicitly found that a police department’s policies violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.
 
That finding is intended to chart a path to what federal officials hope will be far-reaching improvements, including better-trained dispatchers and officers, diversion of more people to treatment rather than jail and stronger relationships with mental health specialists.

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