Police to Get Crisis Intervention Training

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), October 12, 2007 | Go to article overview

Police to Get Crisis Intervention Training


Byline: Rebecca Taylor The Register-Guard

Eugene police officers will receive additional training in how to handle people experiencing mental health crises in the wake of last year's controversial police shooting of a mentally ill man, but exactly how the training will be administered remains to be seen.

Police Chief Robert Lehner told the city's police commission on Thursday that the department has long considered adding so-called "Memphis model" training to its repertoire, but a state House bill passed this session requiring 24 hours of crisis intervention training for all new police recruits complicates the issue.

"If the question is, will the Eugene Police Department implement crisis intervention training, the answer is, yes," Lehner told the commission at its monthly meeting. "Now it's just a matter of putting together how we're going to do it."

Lehner was responding to the police commission's unanimous motion that the department consider creating a crisis intervention team to deal with the potentially violent mentally ill. A commission sub-committee spent the past several months studying ways to enhance police officer training on the issue in the wake of a shooting last November that killed 19-year-old Ryan Salisbury in his family's driveway.

Salisbury suffered from bipolar disorder and was in the midst of a psychotic break when he went on a violent rampage in his family's home Nov. 14. Police fired five shots as he walked toward them holding a kitchen knife after beanbag rounds and officers' orders failed to stop him.

The subcommittee examined several options before settling on the "Memphis model," in which interested officers receive training from mental health experts to deal with potentially violent crisis situations. The model has been adopted in more than 70 cities and is credited with reducing the use of deadly force and injuries to the police and the public in those cities. Portland police and the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office have introduced similar programs.

About a dozen people expressed support for the subcommittee's proposal at Thursday's meeting, including local mental health experts and Salisbury's parents, Jeff and Denise Salisbury, who have called for crisis intervention training and, as a last resort, the use of Taser stun guns.

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