Fifty government workers in Rochester, N.Y., have taken a two-week course on dealing with people who are emotionally disturbed, such as those who are coping with mental illness, situational stress or the effects of drugs and alcohol, reports the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. The 50 include 14 city cops who will join the department’s Emotionally Disturbed Persons Response Team. Cedric Alexander, a psychologist who is the Rochester police director of professional development, developed the course after two incidents in 2002 in which men who displayed symptoms of mental illness died during or shortly after contact with city officers. “We’re always dealing with people in emotional distress,” he said.
Police Chief Robert Duffy said he and his commanders learned from those incidents that city police officers didn’t have the training to deal with emotionally disturbed people. But Sgt. Eric Weaver, commander of the teams, said police officers have long been called upon to act as street-corner social workers. “Now, we’re finally teaching them how to do a job they’ve been asked to do for many years,” Weaver said. Alexander is not aware of any police department in the country that offers 80 hours of instruction on these topics.