The Israeli Psychiatric Association appealed on Thursday to the police to implement a special training system for police officers on working in situations with people who suffer from mental illness. The appeal comes a few days after the tragic incident in which a policeman who confronted 33-year-old Haifa resident Munir Anabtawi shot him to death, on the grounds that Anabtawi was trying to attack him with a knife.
Anabtawi, a resident of the Wadi Nisnas neighborhood in Haifa, has a background of mental illness and, according to the grieving family, the police should have dealt with him differently and worked to de-escalate the situation instead of reaching a physical confrontation with him, which ended in tragedy.
Following the incident, the third in two years, Israeli Psychiatric Association chairman Dr. Zvi Fischel sent an appeal to Police Chief Kobi Shabtai, urging him to implement de-escalation training for police.
In the appeal, Fischel wrote that "this is a recurring incident, which indicates the difficulty of the police in dealing with the mentally ill population. This difficulty stems from treating our patients as a terrorist or a criminal whose goal is to neutralize him."
He further explained that the coronavirus crisis is an especially challenging era on this front and that a change in police attitudes must be brought about to correspond with its challenges.
"The police must begin to show a different, more appropriate attitude – on the one hand showing a special sensitivity to the population and on the other hand, not compromising regarding the security of the police."
In a letter he sent, Fischel suggested that Shabtai "immediately launch a training system for police officers in everything related to the treatment of the psychiatric population, and establish unique emergency response teams for such cases."