Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Editorial on Crisis Intervention Training for Houston Police

Here's an editorial that appeared October 9, 2007 in the Houston Chronicle, with regard to training the Houston police force how to deal effectively with people with mental illness:

"In the past year Houston officers have fatally shot four mentally ill people during confrontations. The rash of incidents indicates officers need much more tactical and sensitivity training in order to subdue irrational suspects while preventing unnecessary loss of life.

The Metropolitan Organization, a network of community activists, called on Mayor Bill White to institute an incentive pay program to coax officers into training as crisis intervention specialists. While the request is well-intentioned, the department is short of officers and money. Police officers should not need to be lured by more dollars to learn how to do their job and protect life.

In recent years HPD salaries have been substantially boosted. There is no need for an incentive program for police officers who already have a testing system for promotions to higher paying ranks.

As Mayor White pointed out, every HPD officer graduating from a cadet class should be an expert in dealing with the mentally ill. Unfortunately, of the nearly 4,900 officers on the force, only about 700 have had the required training. For all those in positions where they might encounter deranged suspects or supervise such situations, crisis training should be a priority.

Betsy Schwartz, head of the Mental Health Association for Greater Houston, said some officers are temperamentally unsuited for a job that requires them to control a scene without force. They should be screened out, and only properly trained officers should be sent on calls involving the mentally ill. That policy seems only reasonable, but it should not require incentive pay to implement.

State legislation already exists requiring veteran police officers to take 16 hours of training by 2009 in how to deal with mentally ill persons without resorting to violence. Yet less than 25 percent of HPD officers have taken the course two years after the Bob Meadours Act became law. The bill mandates that veteran officers must have completed the training by September 2009.

Although HPD initiated crisis training in 1999, officers have shot at least 15 mentally ill people since then. In only one of those incidents had the officer involved gone through intervention training — this despite the fact that HPD claims to have the largest officer training program for mental health in the nation. Just last month, one of HPD's trainers was in Alabama giving such instruction to the Mobile County Sheriff's Department.

It's admirable to assist other law enforcement agencies, but it would be more desirable if all appropriate Houston officers went through the program before it was marketed elsewhere. Mayor White should instruct Chief Harold Hurtt to comply with the law and make sure veteran officers receive the same crisis training that is taught to incoming cadets."

Learn more about Crisis Intervention Training from the NAMI website.

2 comments:

laura green said...

Everyone should have an idea of how to treat people with mental illness, even those who are ill because of substance abuse.
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laura green

Addiction Recovery Alabama

Addiction Recovery Alabama

jackspar said...

Drug "use" may involve no harm at all up to occasional episodes of serious abuse and also includes "abuse or dependence." "Drug use" - which may report only one use of some drug in a lifetime or more regular use - is the figure normally reported to the public. This both confuses and greatly exaggerates problematic use.

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jackspar.

Addiction Recovery Texas