An Ohio lawmaker wants to pass a bill that would give police officers information about mentally ill people who have committed criminal offenses in their communities. In an interview with Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles, Republican State Sen. Bill Beagle explains what his bill would do.
BEAGLE: "The purpose is one of protection and specifically what our goal is is to protect our peace officers who are entering a situation, if they have access to a person's name whom they may be encountering. And if this bill is enacted...they may find out that they are entering a situation where someone has perhaps been released -- given conditional release -- or had some history of violence where they’ve come in contact with the court and has been released. Maybe they're required to go to treatment, maybe they aren't. 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, I would think. 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 to help you answer questions would be better. And so if you know you are dealing with somebody who’s had some sort of contact with the court, specifically for violent offenses, and there were mental issues, you might be on guard. And one, that is for the police officer’s protection, so they might understand what they're getting into. And another thing is, ultimately we hope it would 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. And it might just lead to a better outcome for everybody."
INGLES: "So what kind of mental illnesses, mental conditions, would be tracked?"
BEAGLE: :I don’t know that it go by what types of illnesses would be tracked. I think it’s going to be driven by the offense and whether or not the court has ordered mental health treatment...So whenever the court deems it necessary that this person should be seeking mental health treatment or is unfit for trial, unable to stand trial for mental health reasons…is what would trigger this to be, someone 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 condition -- their past would be made known, and it might be used for outside purposes. What about that?"
BEAGLE: "That’s why we emphasize that the LEEDS system isn't available for the general public. It’s not something that's searchable by public record. And therefore it isn't something that should be getting out. And 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, for example. If you're only required to go under there for a period of time, then you're only going to be in the system for a period of time."
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 Hopper.