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Chiefs of police around Minnesota examines new ways to help those during suicide calls

Critical Issues Forum inn Bloomington on Dec. 11, 2019. Photo: Courtesy of Minnesota Chiefs on Twitter
Critical Issues Forum inn Bloomington on Dec. 11, 2019.

Updated: December 11, 2019 08:39 PM

The Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association (MCPA) convened nearly 200 law enforcement leaders, mental health professionals and stakeholders from across the state in Bloomington Wednesday to discuss and debate how to best respond to suicide calls. 

Law enforcement agencies in Minnesota are rethinking their approach to calls where individuals are threatening to kill themselves but are posing no known threat to others. The calls are one of the most controversial, timely topics in the policing profession, according to a news release.

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A recent MPCA survey shows, of more than 300 Minnesota police chiefs, nearly 65% of respondents said they have either changed their response to such calls or are considering doing so due to court rulings and potential dangers to both the officers and people threatening suicide. The survey also showed less than 20% of police chiefs who responded to the study said they refer these calls to a crisis intervention resource, and more than 25% have officers leave the scene if contact can't be made with the individual in crisis. 

MCPA Executive Director Andy Skoogman says many local police departments, particularly smaller departments in Greater Minnesota, simply don't have access to appropriate mental health resources and believe this is one reason such calls often end violently. 

"We are very concerned about this trend and want to find solutions that save lives and prevent tragedies," Skoogman said. "Today's forum was an important first step to gaining a better understanding of what's happening across our state and examining this issue from legal, ethical and practical angles."

The event was held at the Schneider Theater in Bloomington. 

Suicide rates jump in Minnesota, across US

Bloomington Police Chief Jeff Potts, current MCPA president, said the chief's association will take what it learned on Wednesday and continue to work with stakeholders on solutions.

"With the growing number of mental health-related calls to law enforcement an a rise in suicide rates in our state, we believe this issue must be addressed in order to help police officers protect themselves and help those who are contemplating ending their own life," Potts said.

If you or a loved one you know is struggling with mental health or have mental health issues, please call 1-800-273-8255 or visit the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline website.

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