Less than a week after a man who said he was mentally ill was killed by Oklahoma City police, Sen. Jim Inhofe announced legislation that would boost mental health training for law enforcement. 

On Friday morning at the Tulsa Police Officers’ Memorial, the Republican senator told a small group of reporters that he plans to file the Law Enforcement Training for Mental Health Crisis Response Act of 2021 next week. 

The bill, which is backed by four Republican senators and two Democrats, would provide $7.5 million in grants to law enforcement nationwide to prepare officers to respond to crises and promote collaboration with medical and mental health professionals. 

“What we want to make sure is that they are equipped with whatever is necessary to help them with this community,” Inhofe said over the pop of gun-fire from nearby police training. “And they are not right now.” 

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Daniel Hobbs, 34, was fatally shot on May 8 by Oklahoma City police officer Daniel Lopez, who has received specialized mental health training as a member of the department’s Crisis Intervention Unit. Hobbs had been lingering outside of his grandfather’s house “staring at the clouds,” according to a neighbor who called police. Hobbs was shot during a struggle with Lopez after Hobbs resisted letting the officer search him for weapons, as seen in a video of the incident released by the department. 

The proposed grants would fund training through the Mental Illness Response Alternative Center for Law Enforcement in Colorado Springs. The training is funded by the National Tactical Officers Association, which is made up of active and retired military and police officers from across the country, including Tulsa Police Capt. Luke Sherman. 

Sherman, who is chairman of the association’s Board of Directors, said the program helps agencies develop a response plan that includes doctors, social workers and police. 

Some officers and mental health professionals argue that police should not be responding to mental health emergencies at all. But Sherman disagrees. 

“We protect but we also serve,” Sherman said. “That’s the serve part and we should be part of that group that’s responding.”

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Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado told reporters that “addressing mental illness should not be solely placed in the hands of law enforcement,” during a May 14, 2021, press conference. (Whitney Bryen/Oklahoma Watch)

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