New Law Warns Law Enforcement Of Potentially Dangerous Suspects

UPDATED: Wednesday January 1, 2014 6:43 PM

A new rule took effect  January 1, requiring courts to notify police about violent offenders with a mental illness. 

The change comes three years after Clark County Deputy Sheriff Suzanne Hopper was ambushed and killed by a man who was found to be criminally insane. 

The Deputy Suzanne Hopper Act creates a crime database with the names of people with a history of violence and mental illness.

On New Year's Day, 2011 Hopper was called to a campground to investigate a report of shots fired, when she was ambushed and killed by 57-year-old Michael Ferryman. 

Hopper had no way of knowing Ferryman had attacked deputies previously in another county, or that he was declared criminally insane in 2002. 

Judges must now notify police when they order someone convicted of a violent crime to be treated for mental illness, or when they grant the conditional release of someone found not guilty by reason of insanity, or incompetent to stand trial.

The Fraternal Order of Police president, Jason Pappas, says it will give a heads up for critical incident team officers, police with extensive training on working with the mentally ill, to respond to a crisis and try to diffuse it without anyone getting hurt.

"The more information the better," said Pappas. "You can never have enough information going into a run.  The more that you know the better you can handle it....the safer you can approach the situation."

Law enforcement says the new notification rule will not only help protect officers but help protect mentally ill patients who get into a confrontation with police who are as heavily armed with information as they are with firepower.

Opponents of the notification rule have argued that once someone's name is entered in the database there's no recourse to have it removed. 

That database is accessible by law enforcement only, and it's not it will only include the names entered beginning today.

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