An Ohio lawmaker wants lawmakers to pass a bill that would give police officers information about mentally ill people who’ve committed criminal offenses in their communities.
In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Republican state lawmaker Bill Beagle explains what his bill would do.
Beagle – The purpose is one of protection and specifically what our goal is to protect our peace officers who are entering a situation, if they have access to a person’s name who they may be encountering….if this bill is enacted and they find out they are entering a situation where someone has been released by the court or had a history of violence where they’ve come in contact with the court…and it might alter the way they approach the situation so they are just armed with more information.
Ingles – Tell me about that. Why would it be important that they have that information?
Beagle – Well a couple of things. If you are law enforcement and you are going into a situation and you don’t know what you are encountering, every piece of information would be better. And so if you know you are dealing with somebody who’s had contact with the court, specifically for violent offenses, you might be on guard. One is for the police officer’s protection. But the other is it could benefit the suspect as well. You might approach the situation differently if you know the behavior is being caused by mental illness as opposed to something else. So it just leads to better outcomes for everybody.
Ingles – So what kind of mental illnesses would be tracked?
Beagle – Well, I don’t know that it go by what kind of illnesses would be tracked. I think it’s going to be driven by the offenses they’ve committed and what kind of treatment has been ordered. So whenever the court deems it necessary that the person receive mental health treatment or is unable to stand trial for mental health reasons…that’s the type of thing that would trigger this to be put into the LEEDS system.
Ingles – Now I would imagine folks who have problems with this would say there’s a fear these people would be discriminated against because their past would be made known. What about that?
Beagle – That’s why we emphasize the LEEDS system is not available to the general public. It’s not searchable by public record. Ultimately it is for everybody’s protection and it would be in there as long as a person is required, by the court to undergo treatment so if you are only required to undergo it for a period of time (….then you are in there for only a period of time 3:08)
Beagle says the bill is named after former Clark County Deputy Suzanne Hopper who was killed in the line of duty by a man who was under court ordered care. That man had been found not guilty by reason of insanity after an armed standoff with officers a decade before he shot and killed Officer Hopper.