TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) - Officers across the Magic Valley are currently learning new skills to improve their day-to-day operations.
Day in and day out, officers spend countless hours interacting with the public.
"We do get a lot calls because of some person going through some crisis," said Eric Barzee, a Twin Falls Police officer. "Causes someone to call the police due to the behavior. We have to respond and try to figure out what's going on."
Officers, deputies and security personnel at St. Luke's Magic Valley attended a Crisis Intervention Team Academy. The training is 40 hours and lasts all week.
"We're teaching our officers signs and symptoms of when they get out on a welfare check, lets say a citizen has called in saying someone is acting out and they want him checked on. So the officers respond to that and say 'Oh I'm seeing signs and symptoms of a possible mental illness,'" explained Dusty Solomon, a sergeant with the Twin Falls Police Department.
Through this training, officers learn how to de-escalate those situations before they get worse.
"I think inherently, law enforcement officers are kind of domineering. They show up and we try and take control of things quickly," Barzee continued. "I'm learning that maybe that’s not necessarily the right thing. We need to take the time to try and gain trust, show empathy. Show them that we care and ultimately I think that will give a better outcome with cooperation so we better understand what’s going on."
The talks of mental health awareness are on the rise in the community and across the nation.
"CIT has been recognized as a necessity by departments because of the high number of mentally ill folks we deal with," said Matthew Larsen, an MD with St. Luke's Magic Valley. "Instances of the mentally ill and the fact that these situations can be very difficult."
The goal is always the same, for everyone to go home safe.
"So we can provide a good positive outcome for that person and to resolve the call they were on," Barzee said.
Throughout the training, officers go through role play with different scenarios they could encounter. This year, Solomon said they wanted to revamp that portion of the academy and will have actors and actresses coming in Friday.