DECATUR, Ala. (WAFF) – There’s been a national conversation on policing and mental health, and Decatur’s Police Department is listening. The City Council unanimously approved the addition of a mental health liaison that will assist officers.
Decatur Police Chief Nate Allen says officers are often the ones who are called when someone is having a crisis.
“We have a lot of situations where police engage with a person under mental distress so we want to, first of all, know how to handle those types of calls,” said Allen.
The liaison will assist officers on mental health calls in the field, and also train officers to better respond themselves. Allen says there are so many people who call in a crisis, and he believes the pandemic has made the need for mental health assistance even greater.
“Sometimes, a police officer in a full uniform is not needed at those calls, they just need someone to talk to someone to relate to them on their level, and not a police officer,” said Allen.
Executive Director at Mental Health Association in Morgan County, Susan Claborn, says this position is something law enforcement needs.
“Mental help is trained in understanding not just on having the conversations and trying to talk to people but also kind of recognizing some of those signs which are often pleads for help,” said Claborn.
Both Chief Allen and Claborn say this is just a first step.
“We hope to have more mental health crisis counselors involved with policing, so this is just a start,” said Allen.
Some of the requirements for this position include knowledge in mental health diagnoses and symptoms, crisis intervention and de-escalation techniques, and more. The position is expected to be open for applications within the next week.
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