‘Times have changed’: Sheriff weighs in on mental health laws after Florida school shooting

Warren County Sheriff Ken Klakamp has offered a series of recommendations in light of last week’s school shooting in Florida.

“Our mental health laws need to be reviewed and have changes made,” Klakamp said in a letter to the Times Observer. “Under current laws, a person must be a clear threat and danger to themselves or other within the past 30 days before a court order is signed to involuntarily commit a person for mental health treatment.”

He said “times have changed, society has changed” since those laws were implemented.

“I cannot tell you how many times myself and other law enforcement have either signed a mental health warrant for an examination or transported people for an examination and prior to seeing a doctor the person is given the option to sign themselves in for treatment. Why? Because it’s easier and it cuts down on paperwork. But once the person voluntarily signed themselves in things change.”

Klakamp said that an involuntary commit will prohibit a person from purchasing or possessing a firearm while a voluntary commitment doesn’t come with that restriction.

“I understand that common sense must be used and each incident must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis,” he said.

Klakamp then shifted to speaking about the school resource officer program.

“Each deputy assigned to the program has attended and completed the Basic School Resource Officer training,” he said. “This summer those deputies will be attending the Advanced School Resource Officer training on adolescent mental health.”

He called on the Warren County School District “to implement a zero tolerance policy concerning doors being left unlocked.

“I have been asked ‘When and who should we contact concerning threats to schools?’ Call ANY local law enforcement agency or contact the School District,” Klakamp said. “The School Resource Officers have contact with the school district every day that school is in session. Local law enforcement may very well know the person making the threat and we may have had contact with that person.

“Law enforcement’s job (is) to evaluate every potential threat and also to make sure a threat is credible.”

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