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On November 6, two D.C. Police Department officers shot and killed David Kerstetter. The two cops knew that he was mentally-ill, that he was probably in crisis. The police department says that Kerstetter had a knife, that there was a struggle, that the officers had to shoot. We recently published a full story on the incident.
In October, the Department of Mental Health started up its Mobile Crisis Services. This office’s main function is to take calls from police, concerned families, and mental-health providers and attend to residents in crisis—-to attend to people very much like David Kerstetter.
On Nov. 1, the mobile crisis response teams were fully staffed and operational. Five days later, Kerstetter was shot and killed by police.
Officer Frederick Friday, who shot Kerstetter, told Washington City Paper he tried to call the 38-year-old’s psychiatrist and others before entering Kerstetter’s apartment. He failed to reach anyone. According to DMH officials, Friday did not call Mobile Crisis.
Police brass were well aware of this new mobile-crisis unit. It had been planned for more than a year; one official even takes credit for its creation. But at the time of Kerstetter’s death, a Memorandum of Understanding had yet to be signed between DMH and the D.C. Police Department.
DMH sent the memorandum to police the day after Kerstetter’s death. Two weeks later, on November 21, it was signed by all parties. The memo outlines clear protocols on what the police should do when facing a resident in crisis:
“The purpose of this Memorandum of Understanding shall be to ensure the coordination between DMH and MPD in responding to individuals in need of mobile crisis services. The overall objective of the mobile crisis service is to ensure quick access to services and prevent serious injuries that can occur during a mental health emergency…”
The memo goes on to state: “When an MPD officer determines that upon encountering an individual with an apparent mental health crisis and a mental health intervention is the most appropriate response, MPD shall contact MCS or chAMPS for assistance. If available, MCS or ChAMPS (depending on the age of the individual) should respond and assist the on-scene MPD unit to determine the best mental health option for the individual.”
You can read the memo below or download it.
*passport photo of David Kerstetter provided by the Kerstetter family.