Training for police cannot prevent deadly confrontations in all cases


Published: Wednesday, March 1, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 28, 2006 at 9:18 p.m.
Medication, alcohol and mental health problems all have been raised as issues in connection with the fatal shooting of a Shiloh man by a Marion County deputy early Tuesday.
But, even with special training many officers now receive on dealing with people with mental health or substance abuse issues, violent encounters sometimes are unavoidable, officers said.
"We're trying to arm ourselves with as many tools as we can to prevent those tragedies," said Alachua County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Steve Maynard. The Sheriff's Office is involved in providing "crisis intervention" training to Alachua County deputies and officers from other local law enforcement agencies.
However, he said, "When our lives our threatened, there comes a point where lethal force is not only justified but the most prudent course of action."
Stanley Allen Mizell's father said his son, who lived with him, was disabled, had been taking medication and possibly had a few drinks before he was went outside with a pellet gun on Tuesday. Deputy Michael Colbert fired at Stanley Mizell after he refused to put down what appeared to be .45-caliber handgun.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office also reported that Stanley Mizell had received mental health treatment after deputies were called to the home, 20980 N. County Road 329, about eight years ago when he stabbed himself with an ice pick.
Officers in Alachua and Marion counties have been involved in other cases that turned deadly after they were confronted by someone who had a mental health illness or substance abuse problem. In response, both now have specialized programs that provide help to officers in dealing with these cases.
About 60 officers from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office, the Alachua County jail, the Bradford County Sheriff's Office, and Gainesville and University of Florida police departments have gone through the program, called Crisis Intervention Team Training. The program is meant to train certain officers in each agency to respond to mental health incidents and "hopefully deal with those folks who are suffering from mental health crisis when that's recognized and to reduce the potential for a violent confrontation," said Alachua County Sheriff's Lt. Jim Lybarger, who is an instructor.
The Marion County Sheriff's Office also has a Crisis Intervention Unit made up of mental health professionals who have been hired to respond to incidents deputies believe involve mental health problems, said spokesman Capt. James Pogue. The unit was formed in July.
He said it's too early in the probe of this case to determine if the deputy should or could have contacted the unit before the incident turned violent.
"We've missed some opportunities just because it's a brand new unit," Pogue said. "Making sure you contact someone from the Crisis Intervention Team, because it's a new thing it's not at the front of their mind. It's kind of an evolving thing for us."
But as good as specialized training or teams are, Lybarger said, they cannot prevent all confrontations between officers and someone who may have a mental illness or problems induced by substance abuse.
"Whether a person is in mental health crisis or intoxicated by alcohol or drugs, when they present a weapon, we don't have a lot of choices," Lybarger said.
Lise Fisher can be reached at (352) 374-5092 or fisherl@gvillesun.com.

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