A conversation about mental health training for law enforcement spurred after Jermaine Massey was shot and killed by Greenville County deputies while having a mental breakdown in March.
Currently, Crisis Intervention Team training through the National Alliance on Mental Illness is the only certified training for officers. It’s a 40 hour in-depth course that teaches law enforcement how to respond to people suffering a mental health crisis.
The Greenville Police Department has 154 CIT trained deputies. However, they say it took eight years after the death of Andrew Torres, a schizophrenic man who died during a scuffle with police in 2010.
On March 12, a week before Massey died, Greenville Police officers responded to a call with a suicidal person. When officers arrived at the apartment complex, they found a man waiving a knife who also pressed the knife to his chest.
“They were able to de-escalate and use some of their training to convince him to put the knife down,” Capt. Stacey Owens with the Greenville Police Department said.
Owens says tone plays a big part in de-escalation.
“What we try to do is develop a rapport and carry on that conversation, and it makes them feel more comfortable,” Owens said.
The police report from the police encounter with the suicidal man says the officer was able to make a connection with man because the officer listened and found out they were both veterans.
“You want to build that trust,” Owens said.
Owens says they respond to around 170 mental health crisis calls a year.
“If you can remain calm, it often times will calm a person down,” Capt. Owens said.
Capt. Owens says CIT training is important because it transcends only dealing with mental health. He says it can also be applied to domestic violence situations or anyone who may be in distress.