Under a new Texas law, police academies in the state must offer 24 hours of classes in crisis intervention and training about the mental health code, the Houston Chronicle reports. In the past, those seeking peace-officer certification were required to take eight hours of training in dealing with the mentally ill and none in crisis intervention. “What we’re trying to do is help the officers be more alert. Our officers have traditionally been taught to take an authoritative stand and take control of the situation. We’re trying to give them some verbal tools for getting control of the situation,” said Virginia Ross of the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education.
The new course work for rookie officers is based on classes created by Officer Frank Webb, who heads the Houston department’s crisis-intervention team. He believes that mentally ill people should be dealt with patiently, and officers should calmly listen and communicate. The goal of the Houston classes is to educate prospective officers and veterans on what mental illness is so that they can understand how to better handle a situation when dealing with a person with mental illness.