The Fort Worth Police Department, with funding from The Morris Foundation and support by My Health My Resources (MHMR), will assure that every officer is trained in reducing use-of-force in situations that involve those with mental health issues.
The program will teach de-escalation techniques that mitigate violence, thus increasing the safety of officers and the public, the police department said in a news release.
Fort Worth City Council officially accepted the foundation’s grant Sept. 22 that makes this training and certification a top priority.
The news release said this is a unique approach in that, for the most part, enforcement depends on a special crisis intervention unit or squad. The department has 1,659 sworn positions currently staffed, all of whom will be certified after the 18-month timeframe for comprehensive education and training.
Teaching the 40-hour program will be a certified Mental Health Officer and a licensed MHMR social worker trained specifically in crisis intervention.
“With so much discussion, both nationally and locally, about the need to respond better to people experiencing mental crisis, this donation from The Morris Foundation enables the FWPD to train all of our officers to resolve these calls more effectively,” said Chief Ed Kraus. “I have no doubt this will result in better outcomes as our officers serve these individuals in need.”
Leading the Crisis Intervention Team training and certification process through the State of Texas for the department is Lt. Amy Ladd.
“The underlying elements behind mental illness-related behaviors are usually not criminal or malicious,” Ladd said. “Utilizing the information from this course and implementing effective strategies can help keep officers and the public safe.”
“Often family members call police in an attempt to assist a relative who is exhibiting problematic or troubling behavior due to mental illness. In some cases, when the police arrive, the subject is holding an implement that may be perceived as potentially harmful which can result in a deadly force encounter,” Ladd said.
The goal of the program, she said, it to increase public trust and confidence in law enforcement among people suffering from mental illness, their families and the community at-large.
Fort Worth’s highest call volume for mental health situations occurs in the South, East and North communities, the news release said. Making fewer arrests and assuring people get evaluated will help improve long-term community health and provide officers with options outside of enforcement.
One of The Morris Foundation’s key areas of support is improving mental health in the greater Fort Worth community.
“Providing an approach that significantly improves the thousands of acute mental health situations law enforcement manages each year is one way we can help bring positive change in mental health. Training of the whole force will have the greatest possible impact, reducing escalated incidents and creating jail diversion opportunities for our most vulnerable populations,” said Todd Liles, Foundation Executive Director and Trustee.
“This big step is being made possible because of innovative leaders within the City of Fort Worth, especially Chief Kraus, Lt. Ladd and the FWPD. The Morris Foundation is honored to be part of this public-private endeavor,” Liles said.