Salt Lake Shooting Puts Spotlight On ‘Critical Incident Team’
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In Monday’s officer involved shooting, two officers originally responded to a psychiatric check at the apartment, then called for back-up from a crisis incident team member – an officer specifically trained in dealing with mental health issues.
Officials with the Salt Lake City Police Department said they answer about 3,000 calls a year just related to mental health. Although Monday’s incident did not end peacefully, many of the calls do, because of the officer’s awareness in identifying individuals suffering from mental distress.
Before anyone can become a police officer, they of course have to go through the academy. In Salt Lake City, all new recruits must also take an additional 40-hour training taught by mental health experts.
“(They cover) what officers can expect when they’re on the street and when they encounter someone experience mental health issues,” said Detective Joseph Taylor.
The Crisis Intervention Team first came to Utah back in the late 1990s, and now 75 percent of Salt Lake police officers are certified.
“During patrol, if our officers are going on a mental health call, CIT members can either take that call or respond with them,” Taylor said.
Sometimes social workers will accompany the officer, as well.
“The real thing is the resources it provides because it builds a network in the community,” Taylor said.
Members of the Crisis Intervention Team get to know those in the community who suffer from mental illness, both in state hospital visits for acute cases, or in a casual lunch-type setting.
“(Officers will mention) this really changed things for me and I saw a different perspective than what I’ve seen previously or what I thought it was,” Taylor said.
The visits ensure a little understanding and additional training can go a long way.
“It helps them build empathy, and they can identify with them as a person,” he said.
The Salt Lake Police Department isn’t the only agency in the state that offers this training. In fact, most jurisdictions do the same thing, showing the need for mental health awareness and treatment is only growing.
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