Attorney General Curtis Hill hosted and moderated a webinar on the topic of law enforcement and mental health — the same subject on which he hosted a successful public forum in November.
“We’ve been addressing this issue lately in Indiana, and we’re finding widespread consensus that it’s something we should talk a lot more about,” Attorney General Hill said. “Across the country, AGs have the opportunity to take a leading role in spurring further, much-needed conversation.”
Hosted in collaboration with the AG Alliance, the webinar featured four Indiana panelists: Dr. Virginia A. Caine, director of the Marion County Public Health Department; Ryan Mears, Marion County prosecutor; David Certo, Marion County Superior Court judge; and Jim Bontrager, Elkhart Police Department senior chaplain.
When police officers make mistakes born of mental stress, the results can be devastating, Attorney General Hill noted.
“All too often,” he said, “we see the national headlines about some incident of disturbing behavior on the part of law enforcement. And from these incidents, even though they represent only a very small fraction of police officers, Americans get the impression that too many police officers are inhumane toward their fellow citizens.”
One key to preventing such incidents in the first place is better mental-health intervention, Attorney General Hill said.
“As a society and as elected leaders, we want to understand what goes on in the mind of a police officer that could lead to troubling behavior, whether in public duty or in their personal lives,” he said. “And with greater understanding, we then can work to delve in, intercept and correct matters before the next bad thing happens.”
Attorney General Hill emphasized that the objective is “not to excuse or justify.”
But when “we safeguard the mental health of police officers,” he said, we “thereby help society overall.”