Mills Police Respond To Stalking By Possibly Mentally Ill Woman
A woman who Mills residents say has been stalking them and their children cannot be involuntarily committed for possible mental illness, the Mills Police Department said Thursday.
The department has been tracking her behavior for more than three years and has received more than 50 complaints, according to a news release.
Police have removed her from dozens of properties, issued dozens of traffic citations, and arrested her a lot. There are numerous charges pending in Mills Municipal Court
Police also have been in contact with attorneys and local and state mental health facilities about her possible mental illness, but her behavior does not meet the legal requirements for involuntary treatment
Until she poses an immediate threat to herself or others, the police cannot do anything else other than to enforce traffic and criminal infractions.
The Mills Police Department has increased its patrols in the areas where she goes, and it is tracking residents' reports.
The department encourages residents to contact them if they see behavior they consider suspicious or dangerous, as well as immediately reporting unsafe driving.
However, they have received many anonymous complaints. Officers are unable to take law enforcement action against this individual if they do not witness the behavior themselves, or if they do not have someone willing to sign a complaint and testify in court if necessary.
If want residents want police to do something, they must be willing to give their names to officers and testify in court if subpoenaed, according to the news release.
Police also remind residents that it is not illegal to drive safely on public streets or walking public sidewalks no matter how many times a person passes the same location.
Likewise, mental health issues are fragile. While they are frustrating to the community, they generally are not illegal.
Police ask residents to immediately report suspicious or dangerous behaviors. They also ask residents to not initiate confrontations with this individual because it will exacerbate the issue and increase the likelihood of additional problems.
Natrona County Attorney Heather Duncan-Malone said her office is in charge of dealing with involuntary commitments under Title 25, the state law requiring for treatment for people who are mentally ill.
This is a civil, not a criminal procedure, she said.
Duncan-Malone would not discuss the circumstances about the person in Mills, but only talked generally about what the law does.
"This is for people who are suicidal, homicidal, or due to a mental illness are unable to care for themselves -- feed themselves, provide for their basic needs," Duncan-Malone said.
The process starts when somebody has a concern about the mental well-being of another calls law enforcement, she said. "If they feel the person presents a danger to themselves or others, or is not caring for themselves, they can detain that person, and they take them to the emergency room."
The threats to themselves or others need to be specific, she said, citing the law: "In the statute, you have to have 'a substantial probability of physical harm to other individuals as manifested by a recent overt homicidal act, attempt or a threat or other violent act, attempt or threat, which places others in a reasonable fear of serious physical harm to them.'"
An online petition asking authorities to "put away for good" the individual does not reach that level, Duncan-Malone said. "So that makes it a difficult thing to fit squarely with Title 25."
The law is specific about who is eligible for treatment, Duncan-Malone said.
Someone who may have had prior mental health issues is not enough to deprive them of their rights and involuntarily hospitalize them, she said.
The county pays for the first 72 hours of care when someone is involuntarily committed, and that person must have a hearing in that time, Duncan-Malone said. The Wyoming Medical Center takes charge of that person after that, and the state pays for the care.
Natrona County budgeted $15,000 for involuntary commitments for the current fiscal year, the same as it has for recent years, County Clerk Renea Vitto said.
But that's a moving target because it is unknown how many people will need these services, VItto said. The county allocated $26,400 in the 2016-2017 fiscal year and $33,731 in the 2015-2016 fiscal years.