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Flossmoor forum calls for mental health training in wake of police shooting

Flossmoor forum calls for mental health training in wake of police shooting
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Better training for police in responding to crisis situations could help avoid a repeat of a fatal July shooting of a 64-year-old Flossmoor woman at the hands of village police, it was suggested Saturday at a community forum.

The event was called in an effort to strengthen ties between Flossmoor police and residents following a call for a domestic disturbance that resulted in officers shooting and killing Madeline Millerwhose family said had mental health issues.

Another recommendation was to have trained mental health experts accompany Flossmoor officers on certain calls.

Police responding to a July 10 call of a domestic disturbance shot Miller three times, once in the arm and twice in the torso. The shooting is under investigation by state police.

Flossmoor Mayor Michelle Nelson said Miller’s death was “an incredible tragedy, not just for her family but the entire village.”

About 100 people attended the forum at Parker Junior High, where attendees were broken up into smaller groups to talk, with the assistance of facilitators, about their concerns in the wake of the shooting as well as possible solutions to keep it from happening again.

In those breakout sessions, people expressed “anger, confusion, disappointment, frustration,” one facilitator said, summarizing the discussion in her group.

Keith Taylor, Flossmoor’s deputy police chief, said trust, communication and honesty are vitally important in having good relations between law enforcement and the community.

“In order for us to be strong, we all have apart from play,” Taylor said.

Hazel Crest Police Chief Mitchell Davis, former president of the Illinois Association of Chiefs of Police, was also a facilitator.

Hazel Crest police Chief Mitchell Davis speaks Saturday at a Flossmoor community forum organized in the wake of the July fatal shooting by police.

Davis said the community forum was a start in what should be an ongoing process.

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“This is not going to be the end but a foundation so we can move forward,” Davis said before the breakout sessions.

Davis said a suggestion from a breakout session he oversaw included having Flossmoor police tap into resources used by other departments in responding to calls where someone might be having a mental health crisis.

Carla Madeleine Kupe, attorney and co-founder and managing partner of Chicago-based CZL, a legal and business consulting firm, said participants in the session she facilitated want to see Flossmoor officials be more proactive about community relations.

The goal is to have regular forums “so there is constant and consistent communication” between the village and residents, Kupe said.

Miller was Black, and one facilitator said concerns she heard is there is racial tension in the village, and “as long as it’s not overt, it gets ignored.”

“There is a fear that exists in the Black community,” she said, relaying concerns brought up in the breakout session.

One suggestion from the breakout session called for diversity, equity and inclusion training, not just for police but all village employees.

Carla Madeleine Kupe speaks Saturday at a community forum in Flossmoor.

Video from cameras the officers wore showed Miller holding what appeared to be a large kitchen knife, and the department said she ignored the officers’ demands to drop the knife and charged them.

Family members said at an August Flossmoor Village Board meeting that Miller had mental health issues and questioned whether Flossmoor officers were properly trained in handling such situations.

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Police responding July 10 heard “arguing and commotion” inside the residence and, after announcing their presence, a woman using a walker opened the door, police said after the shooting.

A female family member began yelling “she’s trying to kill me,” and she and the woman in the walker moved out of the way for officers, police said.

Miller emerged from around a corner, holding a large kitchen knife, and “quickly ran at the officers with the knife pointed in their direction,” police said.

State police are investigating and the officers involved have been placed on leave pending the outcome, according to police Chief Tod Kamleiter. He said Saturday the state police report should be completed in about a month or so.

Nelson said forum was meant to allow residents and others “to be heard, to tell us what’s at the top of your mind,” and that it is intended to be part of an ongoing process.

“The conversation doesn’t stop with this meeting,” Nelson said.

mnolan@tribpub.com

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