CHEYENNE – The Cheyenne Police Department was recognized Tuesday afternoon by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as the sole law enforcement agency in Wyoming to participate in the One Mind Campaign.
The campaign is a national program that’s dedicated to helping police more effectively respond to mental health calls, which makes up a large portion of the total calls to which CPD officers get dispatched.
By participating in the campaign, CPD enlisted all of its officers in a mental health first aid class and 45% of officers participated in training for the Crisis Intervention Team.
The training is 40 hours and teaches officers how to appropriately respond to mental health calls including suicide, mental disabilities, post traumatic stress disorder and other mental illnesses.
“We allow for the officer to really think about what is best for the person in crisis,” CPD Chief Brian Kozak said. “You’ve probably heard stories across the nation where an officer might escalate what’s happening on a scene. When a person who’s in crisis is by themselves, no one else is in danger.”
Kozak said with this training, officers now know how to deescalate and disengage with a person in a mental health crisis if they believe engaging would cause more harm to the person.
CPD Detective Mike Fernandez, a member of the Crisis Intervention Team, said before the training, an officer would enter a situation without knowing what happened other than a person committed a crime. The officer then really was stuck between arresting a person or taking them to the hospital – though with this training there are now more options.
“With this type of training it allows the officer (to better understand) why people are acting in certain ways and are able to better manage those specific individuals with specific needs in future responses,” Fernandez said. “I think officers are being more receptive to the training and being more open minded to why things are happening.”
Kozak also thanked Peak Wellness Center and Cheyenne Regional Medical Center Behavioral Health Services for partnering with the department and providing its officers with mental health training. Part of the campaign requirements is also partnering with local mental health providers.
“If they don’t have officers trained in how to deal with those situations, how can we expect that population of people to get what they need,” Aimee Foster, peak wellness clinic director for Laramie County, said. “I’m really grateful with the police department and its willingness to partner together to achieve these goals.”
At the recognition, Kozak also gave a plaque to Crisis Intervention Team coordinator Sgt. Joann Young for her work in the program. He also recognized assistant coordinator Detective Allison Baca, and instructors Detective Mike Fernandez and Constant Marquer.