Overland Park plans to train all police officers in crisis intervention

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OVERLAND PARK, Kan. – Overland Park Police have responded to a reported 10,000 mental health calls the past three years. Now all officers will be trained on how to respond to those calls.

There have been many changes since a 17-year-old in mental crisis was shot and killed by one of the very police officers who was called to help him.

JoCo United was created as was an Overland Park Mental Health Task Force. Co-responder programs throughout the county were also expanded.

“I think we are doing all the right things and I do think we in Overland Park and Johnson County are way ahead of the curve when it comes to policing and mental health issues,” Overland Park Police Chief Frank Donchez said.

Donchez added his officers are trained in mental health first aide. But he’s only recently changed his stance on more Crisis Intervention Team training.

“I think it’s important to do. I know I wasn’t on board previously and that was really on the advice of the CIT Council that does not recommend it, but I think I could see the advantages of having 100 percent of our department trained up in it,” Donchez said.

A $3 million plan to create an entire behavioral health unit in the police department failed Monday, as council members worried about raising taxes during a pandemic.

But the chair of the task force and the mother of that teen say the department-wide CIT Training is an important first step.

“I’m glad we came to this decision sooner than later and all the public pressure has paid off,” Sheila Albers, John’s mother said.

“Just that little bit is going to save lives. I think that was we were trying to get across if we can have better communication of de-escalating the situation we will not have as much tragedy,” Mental Health Task Force Chair Christopher Newlin said.

The training is expected to cost about $80,000 since half of officers are already trained.

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