Lawrence police respond to a variety of mental health-related calls on a daily basis — everything from welfare checks to suicide attempts.
The department will be beefing up training — known as Crisis Intervention Training, or CIT — to help officers deal with those type of calls, said Lawrence Police Sgt. Matt Sarna.
The push for increased training was initiated when Lawrence Police Chief Tarik Khatib received a question about CIT in an online discussion on LJWorld.com.
Since then, Khatib and Sarna have been meeting with community groups, such as the Recovery and Hope Network, to discuss details of the training.
Officers can be trained at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center, and those officers can then train other officers — reducing the overall cost of the program, Sarna said.
Rick Cagan, director of Kansas chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, advocates for an increase in CIT training statewide, and he said training is gaining momentum nationally.
CIT teaches officers the signs and symptoms of mental illness, as well as techniques to defuse violent situations, he said.
“It makes their job easier,” said Cagan of the skills officers learn during training.
Sarna said the goal is to have all Lawrence police officers go through some form of CIT.
“It’s positive for everyone,” he said.