Representatives from the Alachua County Commission, Meridian Health and UF Health met Thursday to discuss solutions presented by the Alachua County Grand Jury in the Robert Dentmond case.
Dentmond was a Gainesville teen who was killed by lethal force from law enforcement officers in March. The shooting was found to be lawful, but avoidable by the grand jury earlier this month.
The meeting began with a review of past incidents of lethal force in Alachua County. Since 2000, 16 people have been killed by law enforcement — all of whom were male. Twelve of them were white, and four of them, including Dentmond, were African-American.
The issue that the officials in attendance wanted to focus their efforts on was mental illness, a theme that runs through all 16 cases.
“There’s no question that mental health is an over-riding concern with a lot of criminal justice issues. If you were to check the jail population, or just the ordinary court docket population, you would find that a large majority of the people in the criminal courts have mental health issues,” said State Attorney Bill Cervone.
The grand jury determined that the state of Florida refuses to dedicate meaningful resources to treating mental health disorders; the state of Florida ranks 50th in per capita funding for mental illness. It also determined that the stigma surrounding mental illness and “suicide by cop” are other issues surrounding lethal force cases that need to be addressed.