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Phoenix police pick experts to sit on new mental health advisory board

PHOENIX — Top mental health experts have been hand-picked to sit on the new Phoenix Police Mental Health Advisory Board.

“Let’s talk about what got us here. August 14th, 2014,” Police Chief Daniel Garcia said.

In that late-afternoon incident, Michelle Cusseaux, 50, had threatened a police sergeant with a hammer and he opened fire, killing her.

Along with pressure from the community, the incident has become the catalyst for ongoing change within the department to include the creation of the permanent advisory board.

“The ultimate goal of the advisory board is to reduce the need for police involvement in incidents involving persons with mental illness unless a dangerous safety issue exists,” Garcia said.

Since the shooting, city leaders and the department have been determined to reduce the violence that often arises during police interaction with the mentally unstable.

The leader of the largest police department in the state said that it is paramount to make serious changes to policy, training, teamwork and technology for the safety of residents and police officers during calls involving the mentally ill.