By Dennis Ayotte, Jr.
La Prensa de San Antonio — San Antonio Police Department’s goal is to provide quality community-oriented services, build problem-solving partnerships with citizens to prevent crime, reduce fear, and enhance the quality of life throughout the community–and now through their progressive action will be better prepared to serve the citizens of the Alamo City.
Early last week, the National Alliance on Mental Illness San Antonio (NAMI-SA) President Kym Bolado, Mayor JuliÃ¡n Castro and SAPD Chief William McManus announced the implementation of mandatory Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) for SAPD’s patrol force.
“The collaboration between law enforcement, mental health and advocacy systems provides communication, awareness and education while providing critical crisis intervention to the mental health population,” said Chief McManus.
The CIT will assist first responders in recognizing signs and symptoms of mental illness through training that includes role-playing exercises, during which officers will be trained in de-escalation techniques.
Mayor Julian Castro commended San Antonio’s chief of police for taking proactive measures in the education of the city’s patrol officers.
“I applaud Chief McManus for taking the proactive step to require all SAPD patrol officers to be CIT-trained,” said Mayor Julian Castro.
Presently, state law requires only 16 hours of crisis intervention training.
Under Chief McManus’ new mandate, San Antonio will become the first city in the nation to require all patrol officers to receive the more intensive 40-hour training.
“It will go a long way toward strengthening local jail diversion efforts by getting those who suffer from mental illness the treatment they need,” said Castro.
McManus will require patrol officers to complete the 40 hours of CIT within the next 18 months.
“After the officers receive the 40-hour block of training, they will be better equipped to handle a crisis situation,” he stated.
His progressive action is geared toward giving officers a better understanding of what’s going on in the mind of someone in a mental crisis, and give officers the necessary tools to diffuse crisis situations peacefully.
SAPD has been in partnership with NAMI-SA and Center for Health Care Services to offer CIT on a volunteer basis since 2003. However, with the new mandate in place, the knowledge of the SAPD’s force and partnership with NAMI-SA will grow exponentially.
“The crisis intervention training will provide first responders with the necessary tools to recognize the signs and symptoms of mental illness,” said Kym Bolado NAMI-SA’s president.
The statistics are startling when it comes to mental illness in the state of Texas…