Greenville County Council members call for mandatory deputy training on mental health calls

Two Greenville County council members call for mandatory mental health training for deputies. (FOX Carolina/ April 3, 2018)

Jermaine Massey's family members say a 911 call proves it was a call for help. During the call Massey says he's bi-polar and is trying to calm himself.JERMAINE: I feel like I'm going to do something stupid. I really feel it.

DISPATCHER: Okay listen to me, just calm down. We're going to send an officer over there to help you.

JERMAINE: No, I just feel- I feel it.

JERMAINE: Breathe, breathe, breathe.Deputies say when they got to the home on Third Avenue, Massey didn't follow their commands to backup and drop a knife. They tased him and shot him multiple times after they say he charged them.

"Our brother was asking for help. He was crying out," Tamika Gordon said.

She's Massey sister.

"He was sitting on the steps when the police arrived and they tased him while he was sitting there," she said.

Now, two county council members want mandatory training for officers on how to respond to mental health calls.

"It is our request to the Sheriff that things will change," Xanthene Norris said.

Norris, is the county council member who represents the Poe Mill community where the shooting happened.

"As elected officials we expect our sheriff and officers to be there for the people," Norris said.

Ken Dority is the executive director with Nami Greenville. The organization sponsors CIT, or the Crisis Intervention Training program for law enforcement.

"It trains police officers about mental health conditions, about symptoms, about how to react to escalating situations and try to de-escalate the situation," Dority said.

He says law enforcement will also interact with those in the community and role play.

"It's a comprehensive 40-hour course that all of the law enforcement officers in the local municipalities attend," he said.

It's the certification Greenville County Councilman Ennis Fant wants all deputies to have.

"It is clear and evident that this man was having a mental health crisis," Fant said.

He says dispatchers should be trained too.

"Instead of just sending four police officers, there should have been EMS dispatched as well," he said.

Norris and Fant want dispatchers to call EMS and police on mental health calls.

"Fifty percent of all individuals killed by law enforcement have had a history of mental health disorders," Paton Blough said. Blough is a mental health advocate who has worked with the Greenville Police Department to train officers on how to deal with those with mental disorders.

"If we can get the CIT training, people's lives can be spared," Councilman Ennis Fant said.

Greenville County Sheriff Will Lewis responded to the mental health training, saying he hopes serious consideration is given to a specific mental health training budget. Here is his full statement:We would like to thank the Councilman and Councilwoman for bringing attention to the ever growing issue of mental health. We concur that this is an issue that has gone unaddressed or under-addressed for far too long within our community and throughout the country. We applaud Greenville County Council’s call for more training and appreciate their willingness to provide statistics, albeit some misguided and sometimes incorrect. Nonetheless, the attention is on the topic of mental health where it should be. As we continue to move forward with Greenville County Council, we hope serious consideration is given to a specific mental health training budget, as well as an increase in the manpower to deal with this ever growing issue. We feel it should be noted that mental health is an issue that affects our law enforcement community, as well. Our hope is that, if considered, this budget can also be used to cover or offset the cost of law enforcement mental health treatment, as well. Recently, an article was circulated referencing each county council member’s discretionary budget totaling more than $20,000 dollars in a given fiscal year. It is our hope, should council be unable to accommodate this request, they will consider using their discretionary funding to support training for this very serious issue plaguing our communities. Once again, we thank the Greenville County Council for joining the Greenville County Sheriff’s Office in the push for devoted mental health resources. We are glad to have you on board.

Thank you,Copyright 2018 FOX Carolina. Meredith Corporation. All rights reserved.


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