Officer involved shootings from Minnesota have made national headlines in recent years, and lawmakers want to ensure all police officers are best equipped to handle critical situations in the heat of the moment. They believe this can be best achieved by passing a law that went into effect July 1 that states that all licensed police officers must undergo 16 hours of crisis intervention training.
A number of departments have already put their officers through the de-escalation training course, but others will finish the training by the fall. The goal is to help officers learn new and different techniques for responding to individuals who are struggling with mental or psychotic episodes, compared to standard criminals. Statistics show that calls to police over mental health crises are up 62 percent since 2015, and police want to be well-equipped to handle mentally unstable individuals without necessarily jumping to force.
Steve Wickelgren, a former police officer and current mentor at the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Training Officer’s Association, said a lot of police work is social work, so it’s important for officers to learn how to interact with a wide range of individuals.
“The more people know and understand mental health issues and how to better communicate with people in different emotional and psychological conditions, the better we all are,” he said.
The 16-hour course is what is being required, but Wickelgren’s association also offers a more intense five-day course. It involves actors roleplaying as a wide range of individuals that officers may come across during a mental crisis call, including individuals with schizophrenia, substance disorders, psychotic episodes, aggression or suicidal tendencies. The five-day program has already been linked to a reduction in the number of trips to jail or the emergency room.
Right now, only about 15 percent of Minnesota’s largest police departments get this type of training, but Sue Abderholden of the National Alliance on Mental Illness believes more should.
“It should be closer to 80 to 90% of law enforcement,” Aberholden said.
There are some potential obstacles to getting every officer through the five-day program. The course costs about $700 per officer, and they would be off patrol for five days, leading to higher costs and potential overtime for other officers. In lieu of the intense program, some departments are experimenting with a pilot program that involves having a social worker meet officers at the scene of a mental health call.
We need to continue to pour money into mental health training for officers as well as mental health resource centers for individuals who are struggling with these types of issues. A lot of individuals who are repeat offenders aren’t bad people, they just get caught in a cycle where they can’t get the mental health help that they need. We have connections in the mental health community, so if you are struggling and need a resource, or you want legal help for your situation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Appelman Law Firm today.