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Criminologist says “20% of law enforcement calls are mental health related”

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI) - The case of Jeremy Best, the Victor man accused murdering his pregnant wife and kidnapping his 10-month old child, has sparked animated discussion on the increasing issues of mental health.

This week Local News 8 spoke with a criminologist from the University of Idaho to learn more about the ongoing issue.

Professor Joseph De Angelis said during the past 30 years, mental health crisis calls have been increasing exponentially nationwide. Professor De angelis said mental health crisis and suicides make up about 20 percent of calls to law enforcement across the nation.

But even in more rural communities like Bonneville County, it's shocking just how often sheriff's deputies encounter those same situations.

Sgt. Bryan Lovell of the Bonneville County Sheriff's office said they're responding to mental health issues and suicide issues "once or twice a day on average."

When Jeremy Best was first encountered by the Bonneville County sheriff's office, for public indecency, Sgt. Lovell said the responding deputies evaluated the situation with the information available.

As we first reported, Best did not have a criminal record or history of mental health crisis. He also cooperated when the officers called an ambulance and transported him to the Eastern Idaho Regional Medical Center.

According to Professor De Angelis, Best's violent turn was uncommon and next to impossible to predict.

"Generally folks who are taken to the hospital and then (they) sort of begin to compensate and...act in ways that we would consider to be more normal when they're released," De Angelis said. "They may engage in violence, but it's profoundly difficult to actually predict whether or not that that occurs."

In addition, training for officers to deal with those experiencing mental health issues continues to improve.

"We host academies once or twice a year," Sgt. Lovell said. "It's 40 hours of training that we just try to send all of our deputies to so that they've got exposure to just crisis intervention type training. Everything that we do is this constant evolution of training."

Police and sheriff's departments still moves forward with the criminal process while helping people get the mental health resources they're in need of. But they don't always make the arrest.

Sgt. Lovell says even if they had initially arrested Best, it would have probably only been a misdemeanor charge.

According to Sgt Lovell, that means Best could have been out of jail on bond the same day. In which case, he more than likely still would have been out of jail having a mental health crisis and the opportunity to allegedly shoot his wife.

Article Topic Follows: Health

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Seth Ratliff

Seth is a reporter for Local News 8.


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