MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It is estimated that about 10 percent of police calls involve a person with a mental illness.

Some law enforcement agencies are now adding more training on how to deal with those calls, especially after some recent cases involving officers and people in emotional distress.

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Roseville officers responded to a call Wednesday of a man who neighbors said had been having “mental outbursts.”

They shot and killed 52-year-old John Birkeland after he stabbed a police K-9.

“The intersection between law enforcement and folks who suffer from mental illness is a huge issue,” Maplewood Police Chief Paul Schnell said.

Schnell is among those pushing for more training for officers. Ten of his officers will take part in crisis intervention training this year.

“There’s a major push around training of officers to be able to recognize issues of danger and to try and perhaps adjust tactics around some of those things,” Schnell said.

He says some of that involves officers reaching out to people they have come into contact with before, and that have been emotionally distressed in the past.

It also means working with their family members and friends more closely.

“Anything that we can do as a community to intervene and address that is to our long-term best interest,” Schnell said.

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There have been four cases in the Twin Cities where emotionally-distressed or suicidal people were shot and killed by police since January of last year. The person who was killed had a weapon in their possession in each situation.

John Baker is a retired marine who now trains officers on how to deal with veterans and people with PTSD.

“We never want them to compromise officer safety or public safety,” Baker said.

He says the goal is take the person into custody without anyone getting hurt — and then get them the medical help they need.

Baker says it is up to neighbors and family to let police know who they are dealing with.

“If they know that person is emotionally disturbed, law enforcement needs to know that because they’re going to deal with that situation differently,” Baker said.

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association will hold a conference in St. Cloud in April.

Chief Schnell says this will be one of the most-discussed topics at the conference.

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This issue has also received a lot of attention nationally from the Police Executive Research Forum, or the PERF Report.

John Lauritsen