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Police chief calls for more training in wake of Michelle Cusseaux killing

PHOENIX — Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia is calling for more mental health training for his officers after a woman was killed by police two weeks ago.

“I want to increase our training and, in the future, I think the Phoenix Police Department has to have a 40-hour module of training on a two-year cycle for every officer,” Chief Daniel Garcia said.

The main challenge is implementing the training, as Phoenix is experiencing an officer shortage. Garcia has appointed a commander to the police academy in an attempt to build a plan.

Phoenix police officers responded to more than 4,500 mental health checks and came across an additional 4,000 in 2013, Garcia said.

The push for more mental health training stems from the Aug. 14 fatal shooting of a Phoenix woman, Michelle Cusseaux. While officers were responding to a request to pick up Cusseaux, she allegedly charged at them with a hammer.

In the wake of the shooting, both her family and activists have called for an independent investigation.

“We need to have another independent investigation,” said Francis Garrett, the mother of 50-year-old Cusseaux.

After Phoenix failed to launch an investigation, the family and protesters took to the streets of downtown Phoenix to demand justice. They brought a casket containing Cusseaux’s remains with them.

“We’re not here alone,” said the Rev. Jarrett Maupin at the protest. “We took the drastic step of bringing Michelle (Cusseaux)’s body to city hall to emphasize the importance of justice in this case.”

Over the weekend, Garcia said the investigation would be turned over to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

A few days after Cusseaux was killed, Garcia issued a formal apology.

“I’m sorry for what happened to Michelle Cusseaux,” he said. “I give my condolences to Francis Garrett, her mother, and the family.”

KTAR’s Martha Maurer, Mark Remillard and Cooper Rummell contributed to this report.

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