HOPE, AR – According to a release from the Hope Police Department, officers recently were able to to put their training in dealing with mentally ill and disturbed individuals to use in bringing a potentially deadly situation to a close in a non-lethal manner with the assistance of social workers from Rainbow of Challenges.
According to the release, at approximately 3:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 24, Corporal Casey Singleton and Officer Jennifer Ghormley responded to the area near Mack and Texas Streets in Hope for a 48-year-old female armed with a knife who was threatening to to kill herself.
Officer Ghormley and Corporal Singleton arrived on scene to find the woman standing near the street with a black handled steak knife in her hand. Rainbow of Challenges employees were on scene with the woman attempting to talk the woman down.
When Corporal Singleton and Officer Ghormley attempted to get the woman to drop the knife, she put the knife to her neck and threatened to kill herself.
Accoridng to the release, the officers tried to calm the woman, establish a rapport with her and delay any action on her part to find a peaceful resolution and allow emergency medical help to arrive.
While speaking with the woman, she reportedly pointed the knife at at Corporal Singleton and began walking toward him. According to the release, Corporal Singleton backed away to avoid confrontation and pulled his pistol. While the woman continued toward Corporal Singleton, Officer Ghormley approached her from behind with her TASER. Officer Ghormley fired the TASER into the woman’s back, incapacitating her.
The woman reportedly fell to the pavement, fracturing her arm. Corporal Singleton and Officer Ghormley removed the knife and took the woman into emergency custody for involuntary commitment and called for Pafford EMS.
The woman was transported to Wadley Regional Medical Center in Hope for medical and psychological evaluation.
There are currently no official government statistics on police involved shootings of mentally ill or emotionally disturbed individuals but several studies show that somewhere between 36% and 50% of those killed in officer involved shootings had mental health problems. According to studies, many of the shootings occurred when officers were responding to calls about the persons behavior and not calls about crimes.
Hope Police Chief J.R. Wilson said, “I am very proud of the response of our Officers and the efforts of our local social workers. I am not sure this incident would have ended the same way in other jurisdictions.” Wilson continued, “From a legal perspective, this interaction may have well met the legal threshold of a deadly force encounter. I hate to think of all the lives that would have been affected if this had occurred. I am not sure what would have happened had the TASER been ineffective, the officer’s aim had missed or merely a prong did not attach properly. Yet our officers and the social workers on scene remained calm and worked diligently, at risk to their personal safety, to bring this incident to a peaceful resolution. I think our officers operated in a tactically sound manner, maintaining distance and creating opportunity for appropriate reaction time in the event a more violent action was taken by the subject. I am proud to work with people that are willing to put themselves at risk for the benefit of others. People like these officers and social eorkers have my greatest respect. ”
Chief Wilson stated, “We give our officers a lot of training with respect to dealing with people of diminished capacity.” Wilson said the HPD has addopted the “One Mind Campaign” initiative. According to their website, the “One Mind” nitiative was developed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police to “ensure successful interactions between police officers and persons affected by metnal illness.”
Chief Wilson also said that in 2016, the HPD put all its employees through a Mental Health First Aid training course and will be putting about 25% of its officers through training in Crisis Intervention over the next few years.