SALT LAKE CITY -- Some advocates for the mentally ill have listened to the audio tapes of the fatal tasing incident involving Brian Cardall. They say those recordings show a need for more crisis intervention training, so how do officers who have undergone that training respond to a call involving the mentally ill?
The police recordings evoked strong emotions from advocates for the mentally ill. "Our heart just goes out to the Cardall family," said Sherri Whittwer, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) of Utah.
Whittwer says the situation emphasizes the need to expand intervention training for law enforcement. "This training helps officers gain an understanding about mental illness, how to approach someone who has a mental illness and how to de-escalate someone who is in a mental health crisis," she said.
NAMI Utah has centers where officers from around the state learn how to diffuse situations involving the mentally ill. In the Crisis Intervention Team program, or CIT, officers learn to try to resolve a crisis without using a weapon.CIT's director could not comment on the Cardall case but says when dealing with a mentally ill person, two questions arise: 1. Do officers have communication with that person? 2. What dangers does that person present?
CIT's director says if there's no communication, officers must maintain their own safety, even if it means using force.
In the tasing incident involving Brian Cardall, police recordings reveal that 20 minutes before police arrived, Brian's wife gave him Seroquel, a mood stabilizer commonly prescribed to treat bipolar disorder. Dr. Fred Reimherr, a professor of psychiatry, says 400 milligrams is an average dose, and there's no data that indicates the drug would cause the user problems in a confrontational situation.
"There's probably many, many cases in which it has been used, in which people have been restrained, people have been on medication. They've been restrained in either criminal facilities, legal facilities or psychiatric wards," Reimherr said.
Over 60 police agencies in the state have participated in the Crisis Intervention Team program. [CLICK HERE to see a list of those agencies]