Officers embrace crisis training

Suppose police are called to the home of a citizen who is threatening suicide? What if an anxious parent reports a disturbance with a son or daughter who is drunk and unruly? How can someone who is lonely be persuaded not to call law enforcement when there is no emergency?

Law enforcement personnel who have crisis intervention training can be more effective in addressing these kinds of situations.

People with mental disabilities may need to be calmed during stressful events, and even peeople who are normally level-headed can display erratic behavior in a crisis.

Friday, 17 officers from Seneca, Wyandot and Sandusky counties completed a week-long CIT course at Sentinel Vocational Center in Tiffin.

Presenting certificates and serving as co-coordinators of the training were Robin Reaves of Firelands Counseling and Recovery and Melanie White, director of the Seneca Sandusky Wyandot chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“We had people from all three counties,” White said. “It was a good group.”

The CIT course covers various kinds of mental illnesses, communication skills, the meaning of body language and other topics that can help to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.

The class concluded Friday with dramatizations.

Seneca County Sheriff’s Deputy Mark Lawson was one of the participants. He said the training includes valuable information for officers who must assist citizens in a state of panic.

“As officers, we need to step back and address their concerns and make them feel safe,” Lawson said.

Aaron Russell said he has worked as a Tiffin police officer for 20 years, but the training gave him additional tips on identifying vulnerable people and dealing with them more effectively.

With Tiffin Developmental Center and several group homes in town, he pointed out Tiffin has a large population of people with special needs. Some are obviously ill, while others seem “normal” in spite of a mental problem, he said.

The classes remind participants that everyone deserves respect.

“We have to remember, it’s somebody’s family member,” Russell said.

Michael Moore and Corey Galyk are newer additions to the Tiffin Police Department. Both said they learned about conditions such as schitzophrenia and autism and how those conditions affect a person under stress. When one technique does not ease the crisis, the officers can rely on their training to try other tactics for a resolution.

“What works with one person, won’t work with everybody. … We have to keep it fluent and be patient,” Moore said.

“There’s so many different ways to approach them,” Galyk said. “Excited delirium was something new to me.”