“There has been a greater appreciation for the need for officers to be well versed in how to deal with people in crisis,” said Frank Straub, Director of Strategic Studies for the Police Foundation.
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Executive Director of the Lake Region Law Enforcement Center Rob Johnson explained that what is intended for the region may end up being a pilot project for the entire state. The initiative would provide an assessment tool they can use when individuals come into and through the system.
The Council of State Governments says most states have some form of de-escalation training, but the programs may differ depending on department size and funding.
Police across the country are working on ways to de-escalate potential confrontations with the public, focusing their resources on dealing with those with mental illnesses.
Supporters of the new training requirements say officers need to be equipped to deal with people whose actions can be ascribed to illness, not ill intent.
“The main goal is to keep people with mental illness out of jail if they do not have to go to jail,” said Brent Hurley with the Mississippi Department of Mental Health Crisis Response Division.
In 2010, the Council of State Governments recognized the program as one of six in police departments across the country that other police agencies can visit to learn how to improve their response toward individuals with behavioral health disorders.
The officers being trained in de-escalation are encouraged to communicate and empathize with suspects, take stock of the factors contributing to a confrontation, and consider ways to disengage before the situation spirals out of control, leading to the use of force.
“That individual was taken into custody with no injuries and has since been receiving mental health therapy and doing very well,” said Sgt. Malcolm Draper, police supervisor for the Mobile Crisis Response Team.
Training for the frontline civilian employees included how to best communicate with callers who may be having a mental health crisis, techniques to calm a situation before officers arrive and how to recognize situations that may need a response from officers specially trained in crisis intervention.
Mental-health professionals teaching Clermont police crisis-intervention techniques recently put their training into practice.
The unusual exchange grows out of a new partnership between the Albuquerque Police Department and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine’s Project ECHO — a 13-year-old initiative that began as an effort to help inform primary care doctors in far-flung areas of the state in the treatment of hepatitis C, but has now expanded to become a knowledge-sharing network across a variety of diseases and specialties.
Baltimore County, Maryland will work with the nonprofit Council of State Governments Justice Center over the next six months to evaluate police training in behavioral health responses, de-escalation strategies, and cultural competence.
“Knowledge is power and I feel that if I can send officers out in the field with more knowledge and more tools for their tool box, then they will be able to handle mental health crisis calls better and foster better outcomes for all involved,” explained Domino Scott-Jackson, a Pasadena Police officer who has become the face of the Police-Mental Health Collaboration Toolkit video produced by The CSG Justice Center.
You’ve undoubtedly heard about the recent report issued by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice condemning various police practices in Baltimore. What has gone largely unmentioned, however, is the report’s detailed review of how encounters between police and people with mental illnesses result in “unnecessarily violent confrontations.”
“I believe that the collapse of the mental-health treatment system may be one of the greatest social failures in the United States in the 20th century,” said Santa Barbara County (CA) Undersheriff Bernard Melekian at a recent talk hosted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
“The LAPD has a multilayered approach, which is necessary for a more comprehensive response to connect individuals with mental illness to the most appropriate services needed,” said Nicola Smith-Kea, policy analyst for the Law Enforcement Program of the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
NewsChannel 21 spoke with Bend police about a recent encounter with a suicidal man and how more mental-health calls is changing officer training.
By partnering beat cops with mental health clinicians, the L.A. Police Department’s Mental Evaluation Unit reined in costs associated with frivolous 911 calls. It also connected thousands of individuals with counseling and support, reducing incidences of force used on individuals with mental illness and alleviating the burden on overcrowded emergency rooms and the criminal justice system.
“Part of the awards we gave out were the awards recognizing that law enforcement does its best work when we’re working closely with the community, and when we have trust,” said Harris.