“They are people too, and some feel that they don’t belong,” police officer Gina Bell said simply before leaving the office dressed in her brown shirt and green pants, which designate the Homeless Outreach Street Team from regular patrol staff who are dressed in traditional blue. “It breaks my heart since we are trying to help them.”
Law Enforcement Media Clips
Crisis-intervention training teaches officers to recognize symptoms of mental illness while conditioning them to decelerate their approach to someone in distress. Common tactics involve remaining at a distance to avoid startling or riling the person, attempting to persuade instead of demanding compliance, and posing open-ended questions to nurture conversation.
Police are being taught to use requests and explanations rather than commands to persuade subjects to comply. An officer might explain that he needs a driver to step out of the car so that he can see the driver doesn’t have a weapon, rather than ordering him to do so.
“Rural areas, which traditionally have had lower crime rates, have seen dramatic increases in incarceration rates,” says Jacob Kang-Brown, a senior research associate with the Vera Institute of Justice. “We see them now having the highest incarceration rates in the country.”
The implementation of gender awareness trainings—now part of the curriculum for all new employees—was just one step in a series of policy changes made by the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department to address how transgender, gender-variant, and non-binary (TGN) people are arrested and housed at the local county jail.
Recently, the Westminster Police Department became the first in the state to meet the requirements among the seven agencies that have taken the pledge. Chief of Police Jeff Spaulding told us it was important Westminster be part of the campaign because “of the prevalence of these calls in the city and the need to ensure that officers are handling them in a safe and effective manner which optimizes the potential of a positive outcome for everyone involved.”
In a recent press release, Poughkeepsie’s police chief said that since more foot patrols like the Behavioral Evaluation and Assistance Team have been added, the department is receiving fewer calls for service, and departments in neighboring communities are seeking out grants to start similar programs.
The St. Paul Police Department says their new mental health unit is dedicated to connecting people with community resources and reducing escalations that could result in use of deadly force.
The Arlington Police Department has been acknowledged for its compassionate approach to facing a mental health crisis and the One Mind Campaign is setting the standard for police response.
In the past year the department has trained nearly all its officers to handle a mental health crisis and as a result, the department says its use of force and officer-involved shootings are down exponentially over the past 15 months.