Rye police officers undergo training for calls involving people with mental illness
For the first time, the Rye Police Department is undergoing a new training focused on creating better outcomes when officers respond to calls involving people with mental illness.
Every member of the department is undergoing a nine-hour training session this week being led by Eric Weaver, an expert on mental health issues and a former Rochester police officer.
"Officers are often in situations that they are never trained to do," says Weaver.
Officer Jesse Calcagni attended the training session on Tuesday where he and his fellow officers learned how to use their body language and words to help de-escalate situations.
"Every day you come to work you don't know what it is you are going to walk into," said Officer Calcagni.
It's estimated at least 20% of police calls involve mental health yet Weaver says most officers have little to no training on how to deal with these situations.
"We have residents, colleagues ,neighbors in every community that deal with mental illness at times, and we want to make sure officers who responding to calls are best prepared to deal with these things," said Rye Public Safety Commissioner Michael Kopy.
The training also focuses on the mental wellness of police officers themselves.
"Getting officers the help they need to get is even more challenging because there are stigmas surrounding mental help, mental illness more so than general society has," said Weaver.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, police officer report higher rates of depression, burnout, PTSD and anxiety.
The training sessions also help the Rye Police Department meet a new state rule that requires accredited law enforcement agencies provide officer wellness training.