July 16, 2018 10:51 PM
A new state law went into effect July 1, which now requires all 10,500 licensed peace officers in Minnesota to undergo 16 hours of crisis intervention training.
The Carver County Sheriff's Office confirmed it applied for and received $100,000 to ensure its deputies complete a de-escalation training course this year. Most already have and few will finish the instruction by the fall.
Last Friday's officer-involved shooting death of 16-year-old Archer Amorosi outside his family's home in Chanhassen is the most recent incident involving a 911 call for help that didn't involve a crime, but someone struggling with a psychotic episode.
Amorosi was a Minnetonka High School student and athlete. He played football and lacrosse. His mother called 911 and said he was threatening her with knives and a baseball bat. Plus, he was threatening suicide.
Mental health crises calls like that are part of a startling trend in Carver County. Sheriff Jim Olson told the panel of County Commissioners that the number of these calls are up 62 percent since 2015. Because of that, the Sheriff said all of his deputies will have completed a two-day and a longer, more intense five-day crisis intervention course. The instruction involves how to diffuse a potentially dangerous situation without the use of force.
After spending nearly 30 years in a Minneapolis Police uniform, Steve Wickelgren understands that a lot of police work is social work. He uses those skills to teach others at the Minnesota Crisis Intervention Training Officer's Association.
"The more people know and understand mental health issues and how to better communicate with people in different emotional and psychological conditions, the better we all are," he said.
The five-day course is intense. Actors roleplay to give police officers, county deputies and state troopers experience interacting with someone in crisis -- whether psychotic, schizophrenic, has a substance disorder, is suicidal or aggressive.
"It's communication to try and calm a situation. We've got to do it verbally and emotionally, and that's really hard to do but we want them to attempt it," Wickelgren said.
Right now, only 15 percent of the state's largest police departments get this kind of specialized training. Sue Abderholden with the National Alliance on Mental Illness believes more need to.
"It should be closer to 80 to 90% of law enforcement," Aberholden said.
The MN CIT course costs about $700 a person and it means someone would be off patrol for five days. Many local departments want to, but can't absorb that. Some departments are testing a pilot program where they have a social worker meet officers at the scene of a mental health-related call.
Wickelgren said on Monday that de-escalation training is proven to help improve interactions, even reduce trips to jail or the emergency room, but it doesn't guarantee a peaceful outcome. He said some illnesses can't be controlled and sometimes, officers have no choice but to use force.
Updated: July 16, 2018 10:51 PM
Created: July 16, 2018 10:23 PM
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