DUSON, La. (KLFY) — It’s a conversation we’re having more often as police reform becomes a topic being discussed around the country. One main point is officer training when dealing with people who have a mental illness.
Tonight we share the story of one small town police chief who saw a need, and took action.
Here’s more in this Dial Dalfred report.
Above, you’ll see Duson Police body camera footage from August of 2019. Officers responded to a disturbance where a young woman said she was assaulted.
“We had a person in crisis,” said Duson Police Chief Kip Judice. “A young lady who is suffering from a delusional event.”
The department is familiar with this family and after speaking with the young lady, she confessed to hurting herself and officers realized she was having an episode— but before everyone could go peacefully, the woman went inside and grabbed a knife.
“She was inside of a residence with two young kids; her stepsiblings,” said Judice. “When we reviewed the video administratively on the next day it was concerning.”
Concerning enough for Chief Judice to seek additional training for his officers when dealing with someone who has a mental illness.
“After trying to get a couple training centers on board to help us with it, no one had developed a course to deal with that,” said the chief.
So the chief found Rachel Foreman, a licensed clinical social worker who could offer additional deescalation techniques that aren’t taught at the academy.
“One of the things I did was psychoeducation, which is teaching them about the mental issues that we see most common with people and how to identify them, and just little specifics about each one that they might want to remember,” said Foreman.
“Not just the two officers who were on that scene but my whole agency needed to understand how common this is,” said Judice.
On a national level the most recent data shows that about 10% of all police contacts with the public involve people with serious mental illnesses. And while certain tactics are taught in police training, Foreman recommends a different approach when the person has a disorder.
“Me telling the person this way that ‘Hey, I’m here to help you, drop the knife,’ is the same thing I’m saying when I’m pointing a gun at you but the difference is so much more,” said Judice.
Which is part of Mrs. Foreman’s training.
“You have to do things in a way that you get the response that you want from that person who is not logical at the moment,” said Foreman.
Chief Judice says while training can get expensive, it’s about priorities and getting officers all the tools they need to do the best possible job. He believes the training he and his officers received could benefits departments across the nation.
If there’s an ongoing issue in your neighborhood or community or there’s a story you’d like me to investigate, send me an email at DialDalfred@klfy.com.