The police union is calling for officers to no longer respond to mental health calls

INDIANAPOLIS — After two IMPD officers were charged in connection with the death of Herman Whitfield III, the Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police is urging police officers to no longer respond to mental health disturbances unless a known crime has been committed or a threat has been formulated.

Whitfield, 39, died after police were called to his parents’ house on April 25, 2022. He was in the midst of a mental breakdown, prompting his parents to call 911 for help.

Police eventually used a stun gun on Whitfield after officers arrived at his home to find him naked and sweaty; Attempts by officials to contact him have been largely unsuccessful.

Whitfield can be heard on a body camera recording saying “I can’t breathe” while on the floor and handcuffed by officers. He died in the hospital.

A Marion County grand jury has since indicted IMPD officers Steven Sanchez and Adam Ahmad on multiple charges, including manslaughter, negligent homicide and battery. In response to these criminal charges, the Indy FOP is calling on the IMPD Police Chief to stop sending officers to mental health crises.

The FOP said all runs in Indianapolis for people experiencing a mental health crisis (including self-harm) must be directed to Indianapolis EMS and the Indianapolis Fire Department and have officers called to the scene only if there is “a known crime or formulated threat of a crime being committed.”

In some ways, the FOP’s call to suspend officers responding to mental health disturbances is consistent with demands made by advocates of the Free the Police movement. Protesters who support restructuring police policies often call for the police not to be the first responders to calls involving mental health disorders, and instead to create social and health services to respond to these types of calls.

Defund the Police argues that police officers are a “dangerous opportunity for people experiencing a mental health crisis” and that these encounters can lead to the death of a person suffering from mental illness, such as in Whitfield’s case.

The FOP said their call for officers to stop responding to mental health crisis calls does not involve a change in funding, only a change in response protocols and dispatch protocols.

The Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department responded to the FOP’s call, stating the following:

IMPD continually evaluates our policies, training and response to runs involving people experiencing a mental health crisis and other calls for service. We plan to meet with our public safety partners in the near future to discuss this very topic. By working together, we can improve safety for everyone in our community.


The Office of Public Health and Safety responded with the following:

The Office of Public Health and Safety has a strong partnership with IMPD in keeping our community healthy and safe. We will continue to build on innovative strategies to effectively respond to neighbors in times of need, including the Assessment and Intervention Center, Mobile Crisis Response Teams and the upcoming Clinician-Led Response Team.

Office of Public Health and Safety

Indianapolis EMS said the following:

Indianapolis EMS continues to engage our public safety partners in appropriate responses to these types of calls in a manner that ensures the safety of the patient and medical and law enforcement providers on the scene. After all, when someone calls for help, they need to be confident that the services they need will arrive, and that includes those who also protect our IEMS providers.

Indianapolis EMS

Read the FOP’s full response and other reactions to Whitfield’s death by clicking here.

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