When the police are called …

Police operations with people in a state of mental emergency can be challenging. It is also a challenge to report on this professionally, i.e. in a differentiated manner – especially if the operation ends with serious injuries or fatalities. Of course we spontaneously show solidarity with the victim.

We deeply sympathize with the relatives, as many of us have our own experience of crisis situations. How bad it must be for a family who came to Germany in the hope of a safe and peaceful life when a family member is killed in a police operation. It is possible that racist attitudes play a role in this: We are shocked to see that they are widespread in our society, and unfortunately also among the police.

On the other hand, it would not be appropriate to assume in principle that police officers have such motives in an operation that ended badly, and to assume that they brutally beat up mentally ill people with a migration background (1).

People in a state of mental emergency unleash undreamt-of forces, which is why it is advisable, but unfortunately not always possible, to confront them with an excess of people and then seek a de-escalating conversation. Many mentally ill people are also in poor physical condition and suffer from obesity due to medication, with all the health consequences that can quickly become life-threatening under stress.

We should first leave it to the courts to assess specific incidents that are currently making headlines again (1).

However, these events should nevertheless prompt us to re-examine whether

  • Police officers can be even better prepared for deployments with people in a state of mental emergency through continuously improved training and further education – which is probably already happening in Baden-Württemberg (2),
  • an established crisis service, as we have been calling for for some time, could reduce the frequency of such police operations,
  • a separate
    number (113) for mental health crises
    and the crisis service in the background could make many a police operation with potentially traumatizing experiences unnecessary for everyone involved.

The Mannheim Regional Court has been hearing a case since January 12
that caused a stir in May 2022: Two police officers are accused of assault in the line of duty resulting in death.

Mannheim police: Staff trained in dealing with mentally ill people
Around 500 men and women in the police service have undergone and will undergo training to improve their understanding of how to deal with psychiatric patients.