December 26, 2006

Officers Gain Insight From Volunteers With Mental Illness

Thanks to volunteers who themselves have mental illnesses, Kansas City police officers, under a 3-4 times per year training program begun five years ago, have gained the insight to safely handle crises and defuse potentially dangerous situations involving individuals with mental illnesses.

An article in the Kansas City Star describes how volunteer auxiliary officer Dupree Chavez and others, have helped train officers how to not make bad situations worse. One piece of advice Chavez has given officers is that a calm approach is more effective when dealing with a person with a brain disorder than going in yelling.

Dupree Chavez, who had wanted to be a police officer, but never got the chance because of his schizoaffective disorder, now not only uses his insight into mental illness to help train police officers, he also acts as a liason to families of people with mental illness, directing them to the agencies that can help them.

The article gives examples of how officers have used their crisis intervention training to defuse potentially dangerous situations ranging from talking down a potential suicide jumper, to coaxing a teenager, armed with a knife, to go to a hospital.

Officers find having someone like Chavez to consult with, invaluable. One officer, Mike Feagans, says,

"We can learn so much from him and others with that experience."
"It's been rewarding all the way around, for us, and it's been a super benefit for the community."

Read the article: Extra insight helps train police officers for crises (Kansas City Star)


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