By Associated Press
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Police Department will start training its officers in how to deal with mentally ill people, a change spurred in part by the shooting of a transient woman who brandished a screwdriver at officers.
As part of the department's compliance with a federal consent decree, officers will take courses over the Internet beginning next month on how to recognize common symptoms of mental illness and how to handle people who display them.
"It's my belief and my hope that we can reduce violent confrontations with people with suspected mental illness," said Lt. Rick Wall.
The move was prompted in part by the killing of transient Margaret Mitchell in 1999. The City Council eventually paid her family a $975,000 wrongful death settlement.
Police officials agreed to a consent decree to avoid federal litigation on what officials said was a pattern of civil rights abuses going back decades.
For the mental health portion of the decree, Wall also established a crisis-intervention team to work to see that the mentally ill receive treatment rather than jail.
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