Officers Trained to Deal with Mental Illness in Short Supply

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Many police departments have specially trained officers and mental health professionals whose job is to help defuse the sometimes-volatile “5150” calls that involve people in the throes of mental illness.

But those officers are in short supply, and often they are unavailable in a crisis, as happened in Sacramento and the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, where police encountered men with mental problems and ended up shooting them to death.

Both cities would like to add additional resources but neither has the money.

El Cajon is a city of 100,000. Sacramento is the state capital with nearly half a million residents. Each city has a grand total of one mental health team that pairs a professional counselor and a specially trained officer.