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Archive for Saturday, December 7, 1991

OFFICIALS SEEK HANDLE ON CRISIS INTERVENTION

December 7, 1991

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Hoping to gain more insight about how law enforcement could deal with crisis intervention, several Lawrence officials attended a presentation by a mental health worker who trains police to deal with those situations.

Mayor Bob Walters and City Manager Mike Wildgen were among those who attended the Friday morning presentation by Richard Davenport, the coordinator and instructor of "The Comprehensive Model Mental Illness in Law Enforcement: A Prescription to Crisis Intervention Duties."

Davenport, who also is clinical coordinator of community mental health services for Black Hawk Grundy Mental Health Center Inc. said he took a "holistic" approach when training officers about mental illness.

In Davenport's program, officers go through extensive training about mental illness. They review possible crisis situations and plot how they would react. During training, they draw on their own experiences and talk about what they could have done differently.

To participate in the program, officers must submit a paper about why he or she wants to be in the crisis intervention program. Davenport then interviews the candidates and rides with them in their patrol cars during an 8-hour shift.

ELEVEN OFFICERS are involved in the Waterloo program, which started in October 1990.

Davenport said he found the officers "certainly streetwise" but added that many of them didn't know the academic terms for situations they'd encountered while on the beat.

The program isn't meant for situations with the average "Joe Blow," Davenport said. Rather, officers involved in the program respond to "real hot situations."

"This is a big deal," Davenport said. "It's a long-term commitment."

City Manager Wildgen said Davenport was invited to speak in Lawrence because city officials are "looking at our approach to crisis situations," particularly since the April 21 shooting of Gregory Sevier, a Native American, by two Lawrence police officers responding to a crisis at Sevier's home.

ASKED ABOUT what he thought about the Waterloo program, Lawrence Police Chief Olin said it was obvious that "our police department is not the only one" that deals with complicated situations.

Second, Olin said, "Many of the components (of the Waterloo program) are in place now, but they're just not given a program name. . . . Overall, we are looking at the details of the Waterloo program."

Olin said officers do encounter mentally ill residents, and he said "We do referrals very often."

One aspect of the program that surprised Olin was that Davenport paid particular attention to academic terms for mental illness, or labels. Olin said the local police department has, in the past few years, tried to get away from using labels when dealing with the mentally ill.

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