OLATHE, Kan. -- Kansas law enforcement officers are receiving crisis intervention training this week to help prevent dangerous confrontations with citizens in crisis.
Leaders say the training can help some people get the mental health treatment they need.
About 800 law enforcement officers in Johnson County already have received this 40 hour course in crisis intervention training.
The goal is to prevent tragic encounters, like what happened last year in Overland Park, Kansas, when a police officer shot and killed 17-year-old John Albers.
Friends told 911 dispatchers that Albers wanted to end his life, but the first officer on the scene did not have crisis intervention training and interpreted the teen's actions as a threat.
Olathe mom Letitia Ferwalt said she's grateful for the training.
She says she always requested a so-called CIT officer when she needed help handling her mentally ill son, Gabe.
"A lot of times when my son was in a crisis, he could become violent," Ferwalt said. "Making that call as a parent is a very scary thing because now I’m involving someone else and I don’t know how that call will go. There’s always that concern, is my son going to be viewed as someone who may need to be taken to juvenile detention versus need to go to the hospital."
The Kansas Law Enforcement Crisis Intervention Council formed in 2004 to start training officers based on a model created by police in Memphis, Tenn.
The training is not mandatory for all officers, but only for those who've had some experience encountering mentally ill people on the streets and want to develop more expertise in de-escalating those situations.
Leaders of the group say when you make the training mandatory it degrades its value. Research shows it's most effective when officers want to have the skills to help prevent a crisis from ending in tragedy.
If you are having suicidal thoughts, we urge you to get help immediately.
Go to a hospital, call 911 or call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433).
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