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            Marietta police say calls from the public about an armed man acting suspiciously prevented a potential shooting, and exposed limitations cops face when they confront mental health issues.
            Photo: Marietta Police Department
            Photo: Marietta Police Department

            New approach to 911 calls for mentally ill would mean help, not jail

            Marietta police say calls from the public about an armed man acting suspiciously prevented a potential shooting, and exposed limitations cops face when they confront mental health issues.

            Marietta police spokesman Chuck McPhilamy added the situation also exposes a catch-22 officers face when confronting people who display troubling behavior that doesn’t amount to anyone breaking the law.

            Legislation brought before the state House of Representatives could fix that conundrum, but its sponsor said she has withdrawn her bill in hopes of a more broad-based approach to the problem.

            , sponsored by Rep. Sharon Cooper of Marietta, would allow officers to take a person to a doctor or medical facility for evaluation if the officer has probable cause to suspect the person is mentally ill.

            Under the proposed law, an officer would not have to file charges against the person before taking them for a mental health evaluation — a step that is currently required before officers can seek help for anyone suspected of suffering from mental illness.


            READControversy over Georgia mental health budget as needs grow


            Chief Dan Flynn said a few years ago, officers were able to prevent a suicidal woman from taking her own life. However, since she had not committed a crime, they “had no legal basis” to take her for a mental health evaluation.

            “That’s the kind of thing that we are trying to cure as well,” he said.

            Cooper told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the legislation is on hold because she believes the issue would be better resolved if it’s considered as part of a “wholesale approach.”

            She said the Georgia Behavioral Health Reform & Innovation Commission, which was created by the Legislature during the 2019 session, will undertake a comprehensive review of the mental health system in Georgia, including aspects of her legislation.

            McPhilamy said this week’s incident, which ended with a man receiving the treatment he needed, illustrates why a new law is necessary.


            READMarietta police say little extras make hiring, keeping officers easier


            Cobb County 911 dispatchers received a call around 11:30 a.m. Monday of a “suspicious man” armed with a handgun at the corner of Powder Springs Street and Garrison Road, Marietta police said. Officers spoke with the 26-year-old man who “did appear to have very peculiar behavior, but was not currently breaking any laws,” the department added.

            Officers talked to the man for more than 30 minutes to make sure he was OK and did not need medical help.

            “During their conversation they learned he was legally carrying two concealed handguns, and had just gone into a local pawn shop attempting to purchase a shot gun,” the agency said, adding medical privacy laws prevent it from identifying the man in question. “The man struggled to carry on a normal conversation and his answers, although disturbing, did not give officers any justification to extend their encounter.”

            Officers let the man go with his handguns once they were satisfied he did not appear to be a threat to himself or others.

            Cobb dispatchers received another call a few hours later about the same man inside a restaurant on Powder Springs Street near Hedges Streets. This time, Marietta police say he was not speaking to anyone. Instead, he turned his chair to face the outside and put two loaded handgun magazines and a small empty bottle of wine on to the table next to him.

            He was taken outside by officers, who called the mobile crisis hotline. Those crisis staffers were also sent to help police in their response.

            Officers removed both handguns and contacted the man’s mother, who said his behavior was “off” that morning. She led police to her 五福彩821ccapp where officers discovered the man left weapons lying around the residence, police said. The mobile crisis team arrived, and determined the man was suffering a “mental or medical situation that prevented him from thinking rationally,” Marietta police said.


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            Marietta police said the man agreed to be transported to a medical facility for evaluation and at the mother’s request, the weapons were taken from the 五福彩821ccapp and placed in storage at the police department.

            Chief Flynn said the situation presented “all the classic warning signs” that readers learn about following shooting events that lead them to ask why authorities were not alerted to these personality changes.

            “I am thankful to the concerned citizens that called and the professional way our Marietta officers handled this situation,” he said. “Working together as a community, public safety was ensured and this man will now be able to get the help he needs.”

            “The question the public needs to ask themselves is what would they have the police do in a situation like this if the individual makes disturbing statements or displays completely erratic behavior, but is not currently breaking the law,” McPhilamy added.

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