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Local faith leaders call upon Indianapolis leaders for expanded mental health crisis support

Faith Leaders calling for change to metal health response
Posted at 10:43 PM, May 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-09 22:43:39-04

INDIANAPOLIS — Following the death of an Indianapolis man who was in police custody, faith leaders want city leaders to improve the city's Mobile Crisis Assistance Team (MCAT) program.

MCAT is a collaborative effort between the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department (IMPD) and Sandra Eskenazi Mental Health Center (SEMHC) to respond to specialized public safety needs in the city, with the focus on treatment in the community rather than in a hospital or jail setting.

Herman Whitfield the III died last month after police were called to his northeast side home for a mental health emergency.

Police say when officers arrived, Whitfield was naked, sweating and bleeding from the mouth. IMPD said officers used a taser on Whitfield before they subdued him -- and put him in linked handcuffs.

An initial report by IMPD found the taser prongs struck Whitfield on the left side of his abdomen.

Now, “Faith in Indiana, Black Coalition” believes it's time to change the way police respond to mental health crises.

“We are calling upon our mayor to commit to funding a clinician-led funding crisis team with a plan to scale up the program to meet the community's need by the end of the year,” Pastor Carlos Perkins said.

Mayor Joe Hogsett’s office released a statement following the press conference held by Faith in Indiana.

“We are currently engaged in conversations about the future of the MCAT program and how it relates to ongoing mental health training for IMPD officers, the pilot for clinician-led response teams, and other existing programming."

IMPD would not comment on this investigation -- but did share this information about investigations involving officer use of force.

“It depends upon at the beginning what type of use of force you are talking about," Deputy Chief Catherine Cummings said. "If you are talking about a more significant use of force, that is going to involve an administrative review and likely a criminal review. And what I mean by the criminal review — that's going to be investigated by our CERT team, which is made up of investigators and supervisors from our homicide division and they will do the criminal review."

All officers directly involved in the incident have been placed on administrative leave.

The cause of Whitfield's death has not been determined.

IMPD has not released the body cam video yet.