How do you tell the difference between someone who needs to be taken to jail and someone who needs to be taken to the hospital? NPR says it’s been a big concern in Connecticut since the 2012 Newtown shootings. Lance Newkirchen, a regular patrol officer in the town of Fairfield, is trained to respond to mental health calls. Fairfield has 107 officers, and 18 are trained like Newkirchen. They’re part of a three-year old Crisis Intervention Team.
The department’s target is to train 20 percent of its force. The Fairfield team is one of about 2,700 — a small fraction of the 18,000 state and local police forces. In Fairfield, police say they want to make sure families have as much support as possible. They also want to make sure police have as much information as they can, in case they ever have to go back. A few weeks ago, Newkirchen and 50 or so officers from across the state gathered for the first day of a five-day Crisis Intervention Team seminar. Such workshops touch on everything from making suicide assessments to talking to people on the autism spectrum. They also discuss forging partnerships with community mental health providers and understanding de-escalation techniques. “The characteristic of your work that sets you apart from every other professional is that you never know what you’re walking into,” says Madelon Baranoski of Yale School of Medicine’s Law and Psychiatry division.