“Our goal is to protect both sides of the badge.”

Houston Police Department memorial
Houston Police Department memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Our goal is to protect both sides of the badge.”

Sheriff Lt. Robert Henry of the Houston Police Department made these thought provoking remarks in this morning’s Houston Chronicle’s front page article, “Keeping calm in face of crises: Harris County sheriff’s team trained to defuse irrational behavior, Friday, Sept. 28, 2012, p. A1, A14).

Lt. Henry commands Harris County‘s Crisis Intervention Response Team (CIRT). The deputies work with professionals from Mental Health Mental Retardation of Harris County to jointly respond to calls that involve mentally-ill suspects. The deputies receive special training on how to work with mentally ill suspects.

Began nationally in the 1980’s by the Memphis, Tennessee Police Department, this program has been recently adopted in Houston. Last week, a Houston police officer shot and killed a double-amputee who threatened his partner with a pen and the crises intervention team (CIRT) was NOT there.

Houston Skyline
Houston Skyline (Photo credit: seoulpolaris)

Today’s article reports that the CIRT has been called on other cases such as when a young girl trashed her parents’ trailer and locked herself in a room. The CIRT was summoned and they were able to successfully use techniques to coax her out of the room and take her to a psychiatric hospital to be evaluated.

Allan Turner, this morning’s reporter cites that a fourth of the Houston jail’s current 8,900 inmates require some psychotropic medication.

According to Sheriff Adrian Garcia who started Houston’s CIRT program, taking a low-risk, nonviolent mentally ill person to treatment rather than jail will increase the person’s chances to not re-offend as well as decrease the costs of jails.

Sheriff Garcia’s analyses and Lt. Henry remarks are sensible. By “protecting both sides of the badge,” the policement and the consummer are protected from harm. But the CIRT must be set up as police policy in order to ensure that mentally ill individuals are protected from being harmed or tragically killed by an untrained police officer.

[Thank you Jean, for this wonderful post. We are always looking for input from the law enforcement, and correctional officer’s communities. We know that their jobs are far more difficult than we can even imagine, and we’re always glad to hear their perspective. – BitcoDavid]

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