Officers pair with crisis prevention teams to protect, serve better
Wednesday, January 15, 2020
Since 1991, New Haven, Connecticut, has pioneered police partnerships with mental health workers in its innovative Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) program. Now, the city of St. Louis is following New Haven’s lead with its Mobile Crisis Prevention Team.
The team pairs St. Louis cops with volunteer community health workers to provide victims and others affected by crime with access to help. They focus on the social issues and environmental conditions that affect individuals. This way, they can address core concerns and redirect individuals before they become further embroiled in crimes.
The partnership helps officers and clinicians intervene and helps victims of violent and traumatic events when they are most vulnerable. The model is designed to combat the risks of psychiatric problems or academic failures that vulnerable children and families face. It also prevents the perpetuation of the cycle of violence.
Police department policies and procedures have been under review for years now. Following these reviews, many cities are introducing community engagement programs like New Haven, as recommended by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Officers are being trained to recognize mental health issues and deescalate situations. Pairing them with experienced mental health workers will enable them to serve better. Together, they can play the role of a social worker and effectively connect people to the services they need.
In Hartford, Vermont, police are training to tackle mental health-related emergencies and deescalate mental health crises. The increasing number of such calls has warranted a change in the way officers deal with mental health issues in such situations.
Partnering with mental health organizations seems to be an effective way to address the mental health crisis. Police get a better understanding of mental health issues, learn to monitor the care of people following a mental health call, and thus respond to crisis calls more effectively.
Crisis intervention training, known as CIT, is now being adopted by many police departments. The training touches upon essential deescalation tactics like active listening, asking open-ended questions, mirroring words, and body language, among others.
The idea of these partnerships is to train as many officers as possible to deal with such situations. If any officer trained in CIT is unavailable, the team should have the basic know-how to deescalate a situation or reach the mental health expert without causing further harm to self and others. That’s the way most departments are proceeding as they try to partner with volunteers or train more officers.
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