Police train to help those in mental crisis

Posted at 8:26 PM, Dec 01, 2016

"The amount of mental illness situations we come across and a lot of the volatile situations that we come in contact with, law enforcement has definitely seen an increase,” said Lansing Chief of Police Mike Yankowski.

And that's why law enforcement agencies from Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties are forming the tri-county Crisis Intervention Team.

The idea is to come up with better ways to respond to calls involving mental illness.

"We try to bring them back to the middle,” Sergeant Andres Wells from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety said. “Somewhere we can work with them so we can convince them. Let's go get you the help you need."

They do this by using what they call active listening.

"We can definitely empathize with them and show them that we care about them and that we are here to help," Sergeant Wells said.

The training scenario the officers showed us involved a man threatening to jump off a ledge after his wife left him. A Dewitt officer tried to talk the man down. Meanwhile an actor played a bystander trying to get video of the man on the ledge- telling him to jump. And other officers were trying to tell him to cut it out. It was hectic.

This training prepares police for the real world where the lives of officers and civilians are on the line.

"Our job is to get them to that medical facility alive so they can get the proper treatment," Chief Yankowski.

And once it's all over Sergeant Wells gave feedback.

"You asked him several times can you come down so we can talk?” Sergeant Wells said. “He said no. But you didn't ask him 'can I come up?'"

Police say these new resources will keep the community safe and protect those with mental illness.

"We have an obligation to keep our community safe and we have an obligation to get them the help that they need," Chief Yankowski said.

They're hoping it's just a matter of time until they see results.