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Some police chiefs want more training for officers who deal with mentally ill

Some police chiefs want more training for officers who deal with mentally ill

Estimated read time: 1-2 minutes

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SANDY -- Police officers are seeing it more and more. Officers are responding to an increasing number of calls for help or assistance and finding that someone involved is suffering from mental illness.

"Because of the mental health issues they might be having, they may not be committing any criminal violations but their behavior might be bizarre that somebody calls in," said Layton Police Chief Terry Keefe. "When our officers get there, they need to know how to interact with these people to diffuse the situation."

That's why Keefe told his fellow members of the Utah Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Council last week that there needs to be more training for police cadets on how to deal with the mentally ill. A current education curriculum put before the POST Council at its quarterly meeting had four hours of training.

POST is the agency that certifies and disciplines police officers. It also runs the POST Academy, which people must go through to be certified as a police officer.

POST Executive Director Scott Stephenson said they felt the four hours was adequate, given that it is part of a larger, overall curriculum.

"I guess our thought process is along the lines of what a basic officer, a new officer, needs to survive," he said.

Stephenson agreed to look at possibly adding more training for rookie officers, but noted that there are other programs that offer police up to 40 hours of additional training.

Keefe said he worries that newer officers may not know how to properly deal with someone who suffers from mental illness without adequate training.

"Our officers on the street have to have some skills on how to deal with that," he said.

Ben Winslow


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