TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) – The Tallassee Police Department is working to improve how officers respond to people with mental health issues.
The Citizens Police Review Board has issued several recommendations on how to respond to calls when someone is in a mental health crisis.
A few of them are small language changes, but the biggest change would require that if police are at a crime scene and they suspect someone is having a mental health crisis, they should call an officer who has been trained in crisis intervention.
This change was not accepted by TPD.
“We don’t want the policy to say you have to wait for a CIT-trained officer when a crime is in progress and we need the officer to respond immediately,” TPD Chief Lawrence Revell said.
Revell said that recommendation was unrealistic.
Instead, he proposed a different change: commit to training 100% of sworn TPD officers in crisis response.
The training, also called CIT, is designed to teach officers how best to respond to people struggling with mental illness.
“Ways to calm these situations down, you know, ways to de-escalate,” Revell said.
The Citizens Police Review Board accepted Revell’s suggestion.
Edward Gaines, chairman of the board, said he was happy with the compromise.
“What we will see going forward if there is a mental health crisis is that the officer who responds initially will be CIT trained,” Gaines said. “And I think that’s great news for the community.”
The city also has Mental Health Crisis Teams, which can act as first responders in non-violent situations where the police are not needed.
“If it’s better for this situation that the police don’t go there, then that’s what we want to happen,” Revell said. “We don’t want the police responding to every crisis if there are people better trained and better suited to deal with those situations.”
Gaines said he hopes continued dialogue around TPD’s mental health policies will help improve trust between police and the community.
“The goal is to continue to grow and operate with the best interests of the community in mind,” Gaines said.
Revell estimates that about half of its officers are currently trained at CIT.
A TPD spokesperson could not give a definitive timetable for when that number would reach 100%, but said it could take several years.
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