A Madison Police Department officer is under investigation for firing his weapon at a man threatening to commit a murder-suicide on Sunday, according to Channel 3000.
Officers arrived at Secret Garden Drive in Madison at 1:45 p.m. to respond to an 18-year-old man who was holding a weapon, Madison police chief Shon Barnes said in a press conference. The man threatened to kill himself and harm others and his family members were attempting to calm him down when police arrived, Barnes said at the press conference.
When the man went into the basement, the police officer fired his weapon at him, according to Channel 3000. Though the officer did not hit the man, the man died by suicide with his own gun.
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Such altercations might be better handled if police officers had more communication with mental health providers, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill Wisconsin Program Director Emilie Smiley said.
“We always hope for more support for mental health training for officers,” Smiley said when asked about what changes could be made to existing policies.
NAMI oversees the Crisis Intervention Team program, also known as CIT, which aims to connect police officers with mental health providers, Smiley said.
NAMI Wisconsin has been involved with CIT since 2013, with 13 coordinating teams across the state now, Smiley said.
CIT trains police officers and law enforcement officers with a 40-hour curriculum where they learn to de-escalate situations, according to the NAMI website.
“In that curriculum, we work on things like verbal de-escalation and body language and the way that law enforcement officers respond to individuals when they’re in a mental health crisis,” Smiley said. “So we definitely advocate that officers go through that course.”
Some areas in Wisconsin, including the University of Wisconsin Police Department, also employ a co-responder model to address mental and behavioral health problems, where mental health professionals accompany officers to mental health calls.
UWPD and University Health Services counselors have worked together to respond to mental health crises for four mental health calls so far, although the pilot program is still a very new system, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
In August, the city of Madison also launched the Madison Community Alternative Response Emergency Services emergency response team. Madison CARES pairs a community paramedic with a Journey Mental Health Crisis worker to respond to behavioral health emergencies, according to the city of Madison website.
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The Division of Criminal Investigation is still investigating the recent suicide, as they do in any officer-involved shooting, Barnes said. MPD does not know the relationship between the man and the threatened individual yet nor the reason why the officer fired the gun, Barnes said.
The officer who fired the weapon has been with the force for about three years and is currently on administrative leave, Barnes said.
“I’ve been in contact with the family and they have our deepest condolences for this incident,” Barnes said.