Representative Gwen Moore spoke on the floor of the House yesterday about an amendment to CJS regarding the case of Dontre Hamilton and how police treat mentally ill citizens
Amendment Offered by Ms. MooreMs. MOORE. Mr. Chair, I have an amendment at the desk.
The Acting CHAIR. Is there objection to the gentlewoman offering the amendment at this point in the reading? There was no objection. The Acting CHAIR. The Clerk will report the amendment. The Clerk read as follows:
Page 34, line 19, after the dollar amount, insert “(reduced by $2,000,000)”.
Page 42, line 24, after the dollar amount, insert “(increased by $2,000,000)”.
Page 44, line 8, after the dollar amount, insert “(increased by $2,000,000)”.
The Acting CHAIR. Pursuant to House Resolution 287, the gentlewoman from Wisconsin and a Member opposed each will control 5 minutes. The Chair recognizes the gentlewoman from Wisconsin.
Ms. MOORE. Mr. Chair, my amendment transfers $2 million into the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act for the purpose of expanding and improving police training to safely and appropriately respond to mentally ill individuals. Now, Mr. Chair, we have heard a lot lately in the news about high profile police-involved shootings that have become a major subject here around the country and here in Congress. Not surprising to some of us, especially those of us who hail from large urban cities, this is a widespread problem that has been around for a while. But today, I am offering this amendment to highlight one serious issue that I think should be a major part of our current national dialogue: ensuring that police have adequate training to identify persons with mental illness and to safely, when it is possible, resolve encounters during a crisis. Mr. Chair, indulge me for a moment while I tell you a story about a 31-year- old man in my home district of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who, unfortunately, is no longer with us today. His name was Dontre Hamilton. Dontre, like many people in this country, suffered from a mental illness. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia 1 year prior to the incident and had been off his medication due to an insurance issue. On April 30 of last year, Dontre was taking a nap on a public park bench when employees of a nearby Starbucks called the police. Two police officers came and did a wellness check and left the scene, discerning that Mr. Hamilton was no threat to himself, nor to anyone in the park or the public. Soon thereafter, yet another call came from the Starbucks employee because this gentleman was sleeping on the public park bench. Another police officer, Officer Manney of the Milwaukee Police Department, arrived and started to pat down Dontre. This pat-down turned into a struggle, and Officer Manney pulled outhis baton to help him subdue Mr. Hamilton. The struggle escalated, and Dontre got control of the baton and swung it at Officer Manney. This caused Officer Manney to draw his firearm and shoot 14 bullets into Dontre Hamilton. Officer Manney was terminated for conducting a pat-down in contravention of his training on dealing with mentally ill individuals but faced no charges in the death of Dontre Hamilton. Mr. Chair, perhaps this tragedy could have been prevented. Too often, our mental health infrastructure is woefully inadequate for many Americans. A lack of treatment can turn a treatable mental illness into a severe debilitating condition. Many can’t hold a job or pay rent. Many end up homeless on the streets. In fact, more than 124,000 of the 610,000 homeless people in the United States suffer from a severe mental illness. As a result of many failures in our system, our Nation’s police officers have de facto become our country’s first responders to crisis calls, including those individuals experiencing mental illness. Too often these calls, many intended to be out of concern for the individual in crisis, become a tragic fatality. As we know, mentally ill persons are not generally dangerous, Mr. Chair. In fact, they are actually more likely to become victims themselves than actual perpetrators of violence. Many of these tragic encounters could be prevented if police officers are trained and follow proper procedures. The Mentally Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act is an important Federal initiative and tool that will help us bridge this gap. This law established a grant program called the Justice and Mental Health Collaboration Program which helps States and localities develop collaborative approaches to dealing with the intersection of criminal justice and mental health systems. One of the authorized grant uses under the program is training to police officers for exactly these purposes: to safely respond to crisis calls and limit the chance of a tragic and often preventable consequence. I yield back the balance of my time.
Mr. CULBERSON. Mr. Chairman, I claim the time in opposition, but I am not opposed to the amendment.
The Acting CHAIR (Mr. Woodall). Without objection, the gentleman from Texas is recognized for 5 minutes. There was no objection.
Mr. CULBERSON. The gentlewoman has a good amendment, and I want to encourage Members to support it. I yield back the balance of my time.
The Acting CHAIR. The question is on the amendment offered by the gentlewoman from Wisconsin (Ms. Moore).
The amendment was agreed to.