Posts tagged ‘mentally ill’

Helping police respond

LC Crisis Intervention Team earns national praise, award
The cooperative team of law enforcement and health care professionals helps treat the mentally ill.

Lt. David Anders


Police work isn’t just for the cops, it’s a communitywide job, said Lt. David Anders with the Lake Charles Police Department.

On Friday, Anders received the International CIT (Crisis Intervention Team) Coordinator Award at the CIT International Conference in San Antonio.

The 26-year veteran helped develop the local program.

On the law enforcement side, officers and deputies take a 40-hour training course to learn how to identify and safely deal with people with various mental illnesses.

In his current position as CIT coordinator, Anders said he serves as a single point of contact for police, mental health and medical officials. His counterpart at the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office is Cpl. Darek Ardoin.

“We mainly try to make sure each agency has what it needs, and we put training sessions together,” Anders said.

On the medical side, Lake Charles Memorial Hospital’s emergency room and mental health department operate a triage unit that includes overnight observation and has doctors, mental health specialists and registered nurses on call 24 hours a day.

Anders said this is a better alternative than locking up a person who needs medical treatment.

Spurred by tragedy
It’s been an up-and-down journey for the department and the program.

Anders has been involved in planning and implementation of the program from its beginning in 2004.

The push to start up the program was the result of a tragedy.

Lake Charles Police Chief Don Dixon had attended a conference in Memphis, Tenn., where the CIT concept was developed.

“He asked me to look into bringing the program to Southwest Louisiana, and as we were doing that we had the shooting with Mr. Ned at the high rise,” Anders said.

In the November 2004 incident, Edward Ned Jr., a mentally ill man, was shot and killed by Lake Charles police during a standoff in which he reportedly attacked an officer with a knife. “That kind of brought everything back to light,” Anders said.

Anders, Ardoin and local mental health advocates attended the Memphis Police Department’s training program.

“We brought everything back to Dr. (Cameron) Melville in McNeese’s psychology program and asked him to help us replicate the training,” Anders said.

As Dr. Melville mapped out the training for officers, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita hit, setting everything back about 14 months, Anders said.

In October 2006, one month before the first CIT training class took place, a second mentally ill resident was fatally shot by a police officer.

Trent Buckins, 29, was shot in front of Reynaud Middle School. The involved officer, then Cpl. Kimberly Almirall, claimed Buckins lunged at her gun.

“So now we’d had two uses of deadly force by us on mentally ill individuals,” Anders said.
The first class, with 14 officers from the Lake Charles Police Department and Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office, began the following month.

Since then, McNeese has held 12 classes and trained more than 300 officers from agencies throughout Southwest Louisiana.

“We have made it available to any agency in the state who wants to send people,” Anders said.

Dispatchers go through an eight-hour course on how to handle calls about someone who is suicidal or mentally ill.

“We make sure the dispatchers know it’s OK to ask if the person has a history of mental illness or if they are suicidal,” Anders said. “We want the officers to know what their (the suspects’) intentions are.”

Struggles for funding
The triage center was set up at Lake Charles Memorial with a $5.4 million federal block grant. It paid for the assessment and 23-hour observation unit for three years, after which officials hoped the state would take over.

Those hopes were dashed as the state faced a nearly $600 million budget shortfall because of declining revenues.

From June 2009 to February 2010, the unit was inactive, leaving police to revert to what Anders described as a revolving door for the mentally ill. Subjects would be taken to a local hospital to be treated and released.

“Our other choice would be to lock them up or take them to family members,” Anders said.

Even though the current program faces funding issues, mental health advocates said the program needs to expand, adding social workers to perform follow-up work and offer transitional housing, education and job training.

In February, the Calcasieu Parish Police Jury approved $500,000 that — with another $200,000 from the state Office of Mental Health — should keep the unit open through September.

While the program remains on shaky ground, Anders is immensely proud of his work.

“Since this started, about 6,000 to 10,000 people have gone to the triage unit, and we’ve established a rapport with the nurses and psychiatric staff,” Anders said. “All of this makes a difference.”

The program has received national acclaim, and the state Department of Health and Hospitals uses Lake Charles as a model for crisis receiving centers.

Anders also said the program has had a significant influence on the police department.

“In the beginning, some older officers saw this as a touchy-feely program and, to an extent, it is,” Anders said. “But you’ve got people getting treatment in one place instead just sitting in jail overnight.”

“When I started in law enforcement, the mindset was that no one outside of the department could tell me how to do my job, but now we’ve brought everyone together: police, mental health specialists, pastors and educators,” Anders said.


July 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

Police standoff

*published Nov. 17, 2009

A negotiator with the Lake Charles Police Department’s Crisis Intervention Team speaks with an unidentified man involved in the standoff at his residence on the 800 block of 18th Street. BY KAREN E. WINK

Monday’s incident has peaceful conclusion
A two-hour standoff involving a man barricaded in a Lake Charles residence ended peacefully Monday morning.

Lake Charles police were called to a home in the 800 block of 18th Street at around 9:30 a.m. in regard to a man with two knives, said Sgt. Mark Kraus.

He said an officer had gone to the home to serve the man with an order of protective custody, at which point the man barricaded himself in the house.

“We determined that the man was having some emotional distress, so we called in members of the crisis intervention team,” Kraus said.

During the two hours, officers were seen speaking to the man through a window. He also came outside three times, but during those times officers could not apprehend him.

On different occasions, two family members accompanied officers to the house in attempts to convince the man to surrender.

SWAT officers eventually entered the house and took the man into custody. Kraus said the man is at a local hospital receiving a psychiatric evaluation.

“It’s unlikely that we will press any criminal charges,” Kraus said.


November 17, 2009 at 6:12 pm

Law enforcers stand by Taser usage, policies

*published Sept. 7, 2009

A recent incident with an autistic teen has raised questions within the community.

Despite the controversy surrounding the usage of Tasers and less-than-lethal weapons, many law enforcement agencies stand by the devices.

In a recent incident, a Taser was used on a 14-yearold autistic boy, which has raised questions about the use of the devices.

On Aug. 31, Lake Charles police officers were questioning the boy’s twin brother, who was a suspect in a robbery.

The officers heard someone scream, turned and saw another person coming towards them.

“The officers initially dodged the young man, which caused him to fall on the suspect, who we later determined was his brother,” said Lake Charles Police Sgt. Mark Kraus.

When officers tried to pull the boy off the ground, he reportedly bit one officer and scratched the other in the face.

The autistic boy’s sister later said she screamed at an officer not to use a Taser on him because he was autistic, but he ignored her.

The mother believes the officers were big enough to physically restrain her son and considered the use of the Taser unnecessary force.

“He (the officer) said he did not remember hearing the sister at all, but the entire situation happened very quickly,” Kraus said.

Less-than-lethal option

The use of force is an issue that law enforcers and residents tend to disagree on.

“For us, force is based on reasonableness, totality of the circumstances and the necessity,” said Lt. Frank Adams, who oversees training in the city police department. “Do I have time to use a Taser to stop this threat?”

Most law enforcement agencies in the parish use Tasers and other less-than-lethal weapons that include impact batons and pepper spray.

All officers and deputies are required to be stung by Tasers for five seconds before they are allowed to carry the device.

Adams said that officers very rarely have the option of 20/20 hindsight, especially when they are in a rapidly evolving, uncertain situation.

“Some tend to focus on one single circumstance and say this changes everything,” Adams said. “And it may be a determining factor, but it does not make the whole situation go away.”

Adams said officers have to prepare themselves on the way to any call.

“If that person has a previous violent criminal record, the officer has to consider that he’s less likely to comply,” Adams said.

Adams said over a 10-year period, less-than-lethal weapons have led to a reduction in suspect and officer injuries.

“And that translates to less taxpayers’ dollars going to medical care and worker’s compensation,” Adams said. “We’ve had officers who have had to retire because of injuries from fighting with a suspect.”

He said over a five-year period, fewer than 1 percent of those who were hit by Tasers died as a result of it.

“I just can’t see it as a fair trade to take away the mosteffective less-lethal weapon because of what happened to less than 1 percent of the total,” Adams said.

Dealing with mentally ill

Lt. David Anders with the department’s Crisis Intervention Team, or CIT, addressed the issue of dealing with mentally ill subjects.

CIT-trained officers go through a 40-hour training course which helps them recognize the behaviors people with certain mental illnesses. These officers will make in-thefield decisions over whether subjects they encounter will need to go to the hospital for evaluation instead of jail.

Anders said the program is voluntary, but most patrol officers have been through the training.

“And there are times when a person may be having an episode and you can’t talk to them to calm them down,” Anders said.

Anders said that through the CIT, the city and parish regularly consult with the Southwest Louisiana chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness for all training.

“In dealing with the families of the mentally ill, they are not happy that their child was tased, but you stop and look at the options,” Anders said. “Someone could get hurt, have broken bones and, God forbid, we go to deadly force.”

Clarice Raichel, executive director for the Southwest Louisiana chapter, helped craft the CIT training and said the use of a Taser should always be last result after attempts to verbally de-escalate the situation fails.

She expressed her support for the CIT program, citing a big change in law enforcement attitudes and perceptions toward the mentally ill.

“I’m going to suggest a scenario of an encounter with an autistic person for the next round of training,” Raichel said.

Determining use of force

Both the city and parish require officers to fill out useof-force reports for any incident. The report is reviewed by a shift supervisor, who, in most cases, goes to the scene of the incident.

Commander James McGee with the Calcasieu Parish Sheriff’s Office said he also reviews the reports.

Use-of-force techniques vary in levels of force, and there is no set protocol of which type of force the officer has to use first.

“The officer has the training and discretion to use what weapon or type of force they feel that is necessary,” McGee said. “They are the ones that are there with the subject.”

A little history

The Taser, an acronym for Thomas A. Swift Electric Rifle, was invented by NASA scientist Jack Cover in 1970. Tom Swift was the main character of a early 1900s novel series.

The Los Angeles Police Department in 1974 were the first major department to put the device to use, according to the June 2005 issue of the Police Disciplinary Bulletin.

On the Web: To see officers explain and demonstrate different less-than-lethal weapons, CLICK HERE.


September 7, 2009 at 4:32 pm