The Riley County Police Department has joined the international One Mind Campaign to improve police response to people affected by mental disorders.
Within the next three years, RCPD commits to establishing partnerships with community mental health organizations, creating policies addressing police response to people affected by mental disorders, training and certifying 100% of its sworn officers and some non-sworn staff in mental health awareness, and providing crisis intervention training to at least 20% of its officers and some non-sworn staff.
RCPD Director Dennis Butler said in a statement that the pledge is a public commitment to working with partners to prevent people who need mental health treatment from ending up incarcerated or being subjected to force.
In a June interview with The Mercury, Butler said the department plans to create a crisis intervention team of officers that are trained to handle these types of situations, which Pawnee Mental Health supports. Butler said it would involve a 40-hour certification that teaches officers how to identify signs of mental illness and de-escalation tactics for potentially dangerous situations. All officers are required to take a one-day class on mental health first aid already.
Butler said the formation of this team would also involve creating and hosting a mental health response training session open to all emergency personnel.
Butler said the goal is to keep people stabilized locally and get them the help they need.
“My goal is to get as many officers as possible trained in that who interact with the public on a daily basis,” Butler said. “It is very effective in limiting the number of people who go to jail when they shouldn’t and (preventing) people who are mentally ill from getting hurt because the officers aren’t trained well in knowing how to de-escalate a situation and be patient.”
In 2017, RCPD created a co-responder program with Pawnee Mental Health to bring on trained professionals, such as therapists and social workers, to assist officers when dealing with people with mental disorders.