DETROIT – Local police departments are working to help the community differentiate between criminal activity and behavioral health issues.
The Detroit Police Department receives all kinds of calls for help and strives to provide help to those who need it most now and in the future.
Read: Detroit officers receive training on how to know when someone is going through a mental health crisis
âThey are asking for help. All they have in mind is telling them to do what they’re doing, âsaid Marcus Harris II of the Detroit Police Department.
Harris has seen it all on patrol. Recently, a cry for help was issued after drivers spotted a person entering and exiting traffic dangerously.
âYou arrive on the scene. You get there and you pull the person to the side and you have a conversation with them, âHarris said. âBe understanding. Be passionate because they don’t understand what’s going on in their head.
The cry for help does not end there. Harris is then able to use his training to identify if the person is having a mental health crisis. He knows how to provide resources where the person can get the attention they need.
âWe can be there to defuse the situation, give the right person the right help, and change the dynamics of policing,â Harris said.
It is a type of police intervention that is part of crisis intervention training.
âThis is training focused on bringing together behavioral health specialists and law enforcement professionals,â said Andrea Smith, of the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network.
Since 2019, the Detroit Police Department has partnered with the Detroit Wayne Integrated Health Network. Their goal is to be able to meet the needs of the community.
âYou are focusing on verbal de-escalation in a hands-off approach to reducing instances of agent-related violence,â Smith said.
The training focuses on identifying mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, suicide, eating disorders, hallucinations and more. Officers spend 40 hours in the classroom learning to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness.
âWhen you can understand your own trauma, you can approach individuals in the community differently. You watch them from a trauma-informed lens, âSmith said. âYou don’t say ‘What’s wrong with this person? You say, ‘I know something has happened to this person. Let me change my approach.
Captain Tonya Leonard-Gilbert is the training chief for the Detroit Police Department. She saw how crisis intervention training works.
âI’m sure everyone has someone in their family who has been impacted by mental health, so I’m happy to see us approach it that way,â said Leonard-Gilbert. âWhen we hire a member who is having a mental health crisis, we are able to provide service. We are able to create a prison or hospital bypass and get them to the providers they need in the hope they get the resources and support they need so they don’t have to call 911 in crisis.
Since his crisis formation in 2020, Harris has seen the positive impact this type of policing has on the community. He joined the CIT team as an instructor, advocating for mental health awareness. He wants everyone to know that help is available and that the police are there to fill this gap.
” They are not alone. They are not alone at all, âsaid Harris. “I said the training teaches people to be compassionate, to be caring, and to know that we are here to help.”
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