Handguns are offered for sale at Maine Military Supply in Holden. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

A panel that reviews police-involved shootings says Maine’s so-called yellow flag law, which enables police to seek a court-ordered weapons restriction, could be used more often.

But too few medical professionals are available to provide an assessment on those who are believed to be a danger to themselves or their communities, according to the Deadly Force Review Panel.

The review panel has examined 20 cases of officer-involved shootings over the last three years. In some instances, family members had sought mental health care for their loved ones before the deadly force incident occurred. But often their needs weren’t met, said Francine Garland Stark, executive director of the Maine Coalition to End Domestic Violence who also serves as the review panel’s chair.

“It’s clear that we need more folks with more training and more availability in order to meet that need and improve the way that we are using our yellow flag law, and ensuring that people get the care that they need,” she said.

Some weapons restriction assessments are being provided online, Stark said. But overall, the panel said law enforcement and medical professionals should improve their collaboration and expand their resources, especially to rural areas.

Those who were involved in the police shootings reviewed by the panel tended to have common characteristics.

“Folks who are involved in incidents involving the use of deadly force by law enforcement tend to be white, middle-aged men who have chronic mental illness or substance use disorder issues, and have firearms or weapons easily at hand,” Stark said.

Nearly three-quarters of those involved in deadly force incidents had mental health challenges, while one-third were suicidal, according to the panel’s report. Stark said 80 percent had criminal histories, and nearly half of the incidents involved domestic violence.

This story appears through a media partnership with Maine Public.