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Local law enforcement at forefront of new mental health tactics

Throughout the years, new information and discoveries about people with mental health issues has begun to change the way law enforcement responds to calls involving suspects who might have these problems. “20 years ago the response was we surround the house, we barricade,” said Officer Jeff Forck with the Columbia Police Department. “We’ve got nothing else to do so we’re going to use conditional tactics, go in and force confrontations.” But now Crisis Intervention Teams are commonplace. In fact, a new Crisis Intervention Council in Missouri has trained about 5,600 officers in new crisis intervention techniques. “Missouri officers trained in CIT have done an outstanding job of responding to situations and connection individuals to the mental health assistance they need,” said Mark Stringer, the director of the Missouri Department of Mental Health. “The partnership between the mental health community and law enforcement has made a tremendous difference for many Missourians with mental illness who need treatment, not jail time.” While Columbia police have not been trained by the council, they do have trained specialists on a Crisis Negotiation Team. These officers work to remain on the forefront of new tactical changes. “There’s an interesting program going on nationwide that we’re starting to do that when you have mental health calls, we send a trained negotiator along with the CIT person and then a backup officer to be more situational aware for their security so they can respond to those in a different way,” said Forck. Right now, the program is unofficial. Forck said CPD administration is interested in implementing the program in the new future but said it “takes time to get those things done.” “We’re working on it and unofficially it just makes sense,” he said. “Our road lieutenants are doing that anyway. We’re going to send the best officers to that call with the number one interest of making sure that that person who we’re called to is there to help and we want to make sure we’re there to help them.”

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