SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – OzarksFirst sat down with Springfield Police Chief Paul Williams on Friday to discuss how officers respond to people in a mental health crisis.
On Wednesday, officers shot and killed a man who they said pointed a gun at them after making suicidal statements.
Chief Williams said there is thorough de-escalation training his officers to go through to try to help people in a mental health crisis.
In September, a new co-response program started.
“Licensed mental health professionals and police officers working together, get people to help and treatment and keep them out of the criminal justice system,” said Williams.
OzarksFirst asked what kind of response Wednesday’s officer-involved shooting had, considering police said they were first called to check on a man making suicidal statements.
“That incident is under investigation, but I can tell you, in general, if someone calls and requests a police response to check the well-being of someone, or someone is suicidal and potentially has a weapon, that’s always going to be a police response,” said Williams. “If there’s any potential for danger, we’re going to be there first to try to keep it safe, and then, if possible, turn it over to a mental health professional at the earliest point.”
We asked the chief why the Springfield Police Department’s Criminal Investigation Division is the one investigating this incident.
“Some states have very good programs, which I’ve pushed for here, with an independent statewide body to investigate officer-involved shootings throughout the state,” said Williams. “Unfortunately, we don’t have that in Missouri. It’s kind of on us to determine who is best to do that. When we have a large enough agency, a large enough number of investigators and expertise, and a little differentiation between people involved, then we’re comfortable investigating them ourselves at this point based on what we have available to us. Then we turn it over to the prosecutor.”
More information about the officer-involved shooting, he said, will be released at a later time.