Crisis training for local police, making mental health a priority

Published: Dec. 26, 2017 at 7:01 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

Some of our local police officers are using a new approach to dealing with someone in crisis. Officers are taught to take control when they're called to any scene. But when they're dealing with a person in crisis, especially someone who is considering suicide, getting control can be a delicate balance between force and empathy.

When someone is in crisis, the conversation a cop has can mean the difference between life and death.

"Sara, I am trying to understand and I don't mean to disrespect you or give you the impression that i'm disrespecting you," one deputy could be heard during the new type of training.

The woman in this car the deputy was talking to is an actor. The scene is part of training for Colorado Springs police and El Paso County deputies.

"I just want to make this life go away now," Sara responded to the deputy, tears in her eyes. "I've given everything I have, I've given it everything I have and its taken it all and I'm done."

The officers who organize this crisis intervention training are determined to make it as real as possible. They teach officers to treat people like people instead of problems.

"We teach them how to go out there to take control of situations forcibly, make somebody do something, but we don't empathize with people until they come to this class," said Sgt. Eric Frederick with the Colorado Springs Police Department.

"We see this every day," added Sgt. Curt Hasling with Colorado Springs Police. "The good majority of the calls we deal with do involve somebody who is experiencing mental illness."

When Dianne met with deputies going through this training, they ran through a number of real-life scenarios.

"I miss him, but sometimes I don't like the games that he plays," an actor emotionally describing a situation she was in to an officer.

"When you say games what do you mean," Officer Jeff Falls could be heard asking the woman during the training.

Officer Falls has been a cop for the last two years. He says on calls like these, he's learned to listen more and talk less.

"When you're on a call you're just investing in that person," explained Officer Falls.

It is a decision that can help bring a call for help to a peaceful end.

"We got into this job because we want to help people and this is just as much a help if not more than taking a bad guy off the street," said Officer Falls.

The week-long program for law enforcement costs about $10,000 to run, including hiring the actors.

The Colorado Springs Police Department says it is paid for by an anonymous donor and the National Alliance for Mental Illness.