The modern day police officer encounters more challenges than his counterpart of some decades ago. To meet these challenges, an officer must be highly trained in a variety of subjects.
This thought came as we read the story in this newspaper about the spike in calls to the Washington police involving mental health cases.
And, of course, the hazards officers face today because so many people are armed with handguns and other weapons pose another challenge. An officer never knows when danger lurks in what used to be routine calls and stops.
It’s well known that one of the most hazardous calls police have to respond to are domestic disturbances. They can be nasty and pose threats to the safety of an officer, in addition to one of the parties involved.
Then an officer stops a vehicle and walks up to the driver, he or she never knows what to expect. Is the driver armed? Are illegal drugs in the vehicle?
Washington police are responding to more calls that involve people with mental health problems. Four calls in one morning recently had to do with people with mental health problems. Chief Ed Menefee said the mental health issues involve people who are suicidal, or are disturbed and not on their medications. They are threatening to the people around them. On the force all but one officer are CIT trained, that is, they have taken courses in crisis intervention team training.
Hospital emergency rooms see people with mental health problems on a regular basis. Hospital security personnel or municipal police often have to be called.
The police often have to transport people to mental health facilities. Often they know the subjects they are dealing with since they have had to deal with them before.
This can help since the disturbed person trusts the officer.
Mental health resources are lacking to handle the increase in cases, we’ve been told more than once. There seems to be recognition of the need, but for some reason mental health is not high on the priority list when resources are allocated. That’s not a new problem. It has existed for a long time.
There are many people with mental health problems who suddenly explode and violence erupts. Innocent people are victims.
One of the major problems is how to keep firearms out of the hands of people prone to be dangerous. Trouble is, no one can predict when a person, who may have been a loner and acting strange, will explode and harm people. No solution to this problem has been found.
Why do we have more people today with mental problems? We do have improved resources to recognize mental problems, and progress has been made in treating those people. Is our society today such that it creates added pressures that lead to mental health problems?
We are fortunate to have police officers who are trained to handle persons with mental health problems.