Sheriff Blames Surge in Officer Involved Shootings on Underfunded Mental Health System

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Updated: 3/18/2013 6:57 pm

Bannock County Sheriff, Lorin Nielsen will tell you law enforcement doesn’t sign up to kill people, they are here to protect. Still, his office has been involved in three deadly shootings in less than a year.

Each incident comes with a heavy price for everyone involved. The officer is always put on leave pending an investigation and the emotional scars can last a lifetime.

“In my career, as I’m looking back and I’ve been here 35 years, my office has been involved in five officer involved shootings and three of them have been in the last 12 months,” said Bannock County Sheriff, Lorin Nielsen.

The Sheriff isn’t surprised by the recent spike in violence.

“I know there is an awful lot of depression and there is an awful lot of hopelessness,” continued Nielsen. There’s an awful lot of mental illness. There’s an awful lot of problems that could be involved in this and law enforcement is kind of the catch net.”

The Sheriff anticipates even more problems if nothing is done at the state level.

“We have become a violent society and we have also become an “I don’t care about society” and that’s too bad,” said Nielsen. “I hate to make a political statement out of it but the mic’s in front of me. Where this state does not pay very much for mental health, where this state does not pay very much period, this is the kind of stuff that is going to happen.”

The deputy who fired the shot to free the hostage was also part of the officer involved shooting back in January and the Sheriff says these incidents are taking a toll on his office.

“From the last shooting, I’ve had one of my detectives say ‘I don’t know if I can do this anymore and to me that’s sad.”

The incident remains under investigation.

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