The fatal shooting by police of a mentally unstable California man and the anguished response of his sister who had called 911 seeking help highlight the risks of a U.S. system that often relies on law enforcement to respond to mental health crises.
Alfred Olango, 38, a Ugandan-born immigrant, was shot by one officer even as another, who had been trained to deal with mentally ill people, attempted to subdue him with a Taser, police said.
The confrontation in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon came at a time when San Diego County is facing a doubling of mental health-related calls since 2009, officials said, tracking the impact of decades of tight budgets for mental health services.
"This is a systemic issue across the country," said Maggie Merritt, executive director of the Steinberg Institute, a mental health policy research and advocacy group in Sacramento.
Merritt said there was no protocol for situations like the one Olango's family faced and people typically turn to police for help.
As cities and counties increasingly rely on police to respond to calls about people who are mentally unstable, many police officers are undergoing special training.
In California, new laws require all police officers to undergo 15 hours of training in dealing with people who have mental health problems.
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