Mental Health Treatment Instead of Jail

Initiative Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops
Grantee Partner Center for Independent Documentary
Directed and produced by Jenifer McShane (Mothers of Bedford), Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops follows San Antonio, Texas police officers Ernie Stevens and Joe Smarro and their daily encounters with people in crisis. The film documents how their innovative approach to policing – which takes mental health into account – is having a dramatic effect on the way police respond to these challenges.

In the United States, one in four people shot by a police officer has a serious mental illness, as do almost 25% of jail inmates and 15% of state prison inmates. Police officers have increasingly become first responders to people experiencing a mental health crisis, despite the fact that they have few effective tools for dealing with them. In San Antonio, under government auspices, the mental health and law enforcement communities formed a coalition to help the mentally ill find help, and support them when they do, that has resulted in quantifiable change, both institutional and structural. The documentary film ERNIE & JOE: Crisis Cops shows the ways in which San Antonio has changed its approach to training and policing, and its impact. ERNIE & JOE: Crisis Cops brings uncomfortable issues to the table and provides other communities a road map to improve communication, empathy, and awareness in providing support to those in crisis.