SAN JOSE (KCBS) – Police in Santa Clara County will soon receive training in how to recognize mental illness and learn strategies for handling people in crisis that do not involve using force.
The six hours police officers typically receive about encounters with the mentally ill typically involve “shoot or don’t shoot scenarios,” said Pat Dwyer, the law enforcement liaison for the Santa Clara County Mental Health Department.
KCBS’ Mike Colgan Reports:
“The key is for cops on the street to understand that 10 to 15 percent of their job is going to be dealing with mentally ill,” Dwyer said.
Police departments across the Bay Area have faced criticism over the last 2 years because of situations where officers resorted to lethal force to subdue suspects it was later discovered had a history of mental illness.
The San Jose Police Department faced a wrongful death lawsuit after the 2009 fatal shooting of Daniel Pham in the family’s backyard. The San Francisco Police Department issued new guidelines on dealing with mentally ill suspects after officers fatally shot a man in a wheelchair last December. The deadly police shooting of a mentally ill man in a San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit station led to a series of protests this summer.
Through interactive video simulations, police will learn the signs of mental illness and how to “de-escalate the situation and refer the people to services,” Dwyer said.
The Santa Clara County pilot program will be the first in the country to teach a mental illness curriculum with interactive video.
Money for the training comes from Proposition 63, the Mental Health Services Act passed by voters in 2004.
The author of the proposition, state Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg, said the training was important because of the widespread misperception that people with mental health problems were somehow more prone to violence.
“It’s just not the case,” Steinberg said.
“What we know is that people with even serious mental illness can live productive lives in our communities if they have the support and the services and the help they need.”
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