The Amarillo Police Department will increase mental health training for all their officers.
Officer Jeb Hilton said mental health training became a top priority last year when Chief Ed Drain took control of the force.
Within the next couple of years, they plan to have every uniformed patrolman on the department certified as a mental health officer.
Right now, 50 to 60 officers at APD are mental health certified, which means they have taken more than 40 hours of training courses.Six of those are on the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT Unit). The rest are field training officers or those that continue to train rookies out of the academy.
In the academy, every officer takes 16 hours of crisis intervention training. Then every two years, officers get a refresher course.
A big part of that training is over de-escalation, a key to handling situations with civilians suffering from mental health issues.
“De-escalation which is a big part of slowing the officer down, taking a little more time to talk to somebody and may be allowed the situation to cool down before it gets to that point where there is a shooting involved,” said Officer Hilton.
Officer Hilton told us they have had a CIT team for more than 10 years, but since they have required more training, use of force in the department has gone down. Officer Hilton adds their continued training, every two years for patrol officers, goes beyond the state requirements.
Before the school year starts back up, Officer Hilton said all school liaison officers will have finished their mental training certification.