Meridian, Miss. Law enforcement officers from as far as Gulfport, Mississippi, are taking part in 40 hours of highly specialized training this week. The training allows officers to become equipped with the knowledge of basic crisis intervention as well as dealing with those who have a mental illness.
"The focus here is to give officers tools that they can use and give them avenues where they can provide support and assistance to individuals who find themselves in crisis," said Crisis Intervention Trainer Andy Matuszewski. "This is more and more common these days. 20 years ago this was something we had no way of doing, we didn't have any system this place and the only option most officers had is to take them to jail."
Jail overcrowding has been a big issue lately across the area. DeKalb Chief of Police Steven Jackson says most of that could be due to the high numbers of those with mental illness in prison, but this training allows officers to be able to properly deal with them.
"Some of the people who are actually in jail, do not necessarily need to be there," said Jackson. "We would be able to get them to facilities that would be able to treat their conditions."
The training the officers receive is a mixture of hands on experience as well as lectures that allow officers to fully be prepared when they come face to face with a situation that requires proper training.
"I call it goggles. The goggles that someone has to wear in dealing with someone with mental illness, they've got to perceive it as being different," said Licensed psychologist Dr. Lee Lee Marlow. "So when they go into a situation it's important to maybe not think I would handle it this way, personally, but to kind of take in what's there and then apply what's there to the situation."
A graduation will follow once all officers complete the required 40 hours.