After North Providence shooting, RWU professor talks police and mental health

After North Providence Police was called to a home about a man in a mental health crisis and shots were fired, a criminal justice professor from Roger Williams University is weighing-in on law enforcement’s capabilities when it comes to dealing with these kinds of episodes.

Richard Solitro was shot after pointing a replica gun at officers Sunday night.

Solitro’s family called police saying the 32 year-old was threatening to harm himself.

Chris Menton is a professor of criminal justice at Roger Williams University who said there seems to be a disconnect between mental health resources and law enforcement.

“It’s too bad that someone has to come to the attention of public safety to get adequate mental health care,” Menton said.

Deputy Chief Arthur Martins told ABC 6 Monday that all North Providence Officers are trained in mental health first aid.

“All academy graduates go through crisis training,” Martins said during a news conference. “We’re not clinicians. We’re not mental health professionals. We base our actions on the actions of others.”

When it comes to that training, Professor Menton, a former 20 year corrections officer veteran, said when faced with a mental health episode, officers have on goal.

“Adequately trained officers are trained to look towards deceleration of situations [and] calming things down,” he said.

But he said it’s not always that easy. In a situation like the one that happened in North Providence, things happen fast.

“If someone has something that appears to be a handgun, the officer is not left with a whole lot of choices,” he said. “This is not what the police officer wanted.”

What it comes down to, according to Menton, is bridging the gap between mental health professionals and police, by having immediate resources available if a situation can be deescalated.