May 9, 2022

Faith leaders call for action after death related to mental health response


Faith leaders gathered in Indianapolis to demand action.  - Jill Sheridan/WFYI

Faith leaders gathered in Indianapolis to demand action.

Jill Sheridan/WFYI

Many in the community are calling for action after the death of a man who had a mental health crisis.

Herman Whitfield’s parents called for an ambulance in the early morning of April 25 but five Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department officers responded. According to police, Whitfield “moved quickly towards an officer,” who used his electronic control device – commonly called a Taser. 

Whitfiled was unresponsive before being transferred to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Faith leaders gathered Monday to demand immediate change and the firing of involved officers.

Pastor Richard Reynolds said systemic failures played into his death.

“Because of the condition of things in our nation, because of what happens repeatedly at the hands of police who are ill-equipped and unprepared and not trained to do this kind of work,” Reynolds said.

IMPD’s Mobile Crisis Assistance Team, or MCAT, was not on duty at the time of the call. 

Faith in Indiana has long called on the city to change protocols to include teams of clinicians on mental health calls. All IMPD officers receive mental health first aid training but not all are trained on crisis intervention. 

Rev. Shauna Lipscomb has a son with mental health issues and she worries about this exact scenario.  She said the city needs better training and response.

“And a plan on how to implement it,” Lipscomb said. “ We need to make sure that everyone in a crisis gets help and not handcuffs.”

The city of Indianapolis has plans to implement a pilot program that uses teams of medics and clinicians to respond to calls.

Contact WFYI city government and policy reporter Jill Sheridan at jsheridan@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @JillASheridan.

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