500+ DEAD… A Closer look at Police involved Shootings


Since 2015, the Washington Post has been tracking the number of police involved shootings that have resulted in fatalities. The number above represents the number of people who have been fatally shot by some form of law enforcement this year. Unfortunately, by the time you finish reading this article, the number may possibly have already increased.

Some of the data that the Fatal Force Tracker includes is: age, race, presence of mental illness and whether the victim had access to a weapon or not. Currently 18% (89 out of 503 victims) suffered from some from of mental health issues and had history of mental health treatment.

In our current social climate, the media often time focuses the agenda surrounding police shootings about race. The narrative usually includes a white police officer who has shot an unarmed African American male. Some have viewed this agenda as a deliberate attempt to cause division amongst people and spike up news ratings, however, the influx of media coverage relating to police involved shootings has shed light on the need for police training to decrease excessive use of force. The frequency of the shootings have also brought immense public scrutiny to the current delivery of behavioral healthcare and early interventions.

We should implement programs that reduce fatal encounters between police and people with mental illness.- Dr. Emma Frankham

Amongst races, African Americans represent 24% (121) of the individuals who have been fatally shot by law enforcement this year. Out of those 121 African Americans, 3% were found to have a mental health background. It is well known that there is a negative stigma associated with receiving mental health treatment, this stigma is even more prevalent in minority cultures which may explain the low representation of minority victims with a mental health history.

Dr. Emma Frankham, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has completed research regarding the influence of mental illness on fatal shootings facilitated by law enforcement. Dr. Frankham’s research suggests that people with mental illnesses have very unique encounters with law enforcement. The uniqueness of those experiences is an opportunity to provide more training and education to law enforcement. In an article published in Contexts Magazine (American Sociology Association), Dr. Frankham writes, “We should implement programs that reduce fatal encounters between police and people with mental illness.”

We have a broken Behavioral Healthcare System!

Limited access to resources and lack of coordination between mental health providers are some of the major issues surrounding the delivery of behavioral healthcare. Before we can even begin to think about early intervention as a solution for this growing social problem, there needs to be a push for more behavioral health resources and collaboration between behavioral health providers in every community. If you are reading this and you are a behavioral healthcare provider- reach out to your local law enforcement and develop a partnership, provide training and resources if need be.

You can access the Fatal Force Tracker here:

Read more about Dr. Frankham and her research here:

Fatal Force Tracker

Read more about Dr. Frankham and her research here:

Dr. Frankham’s Research

Martin LaRoche is an experienced Behavioral Healthcare Administrator and Mental Health Advocate. Mr. LaRoche is also a second year PhD candidate- his current research will focus on the optimization of behavioral healthcare delivery.


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