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Crisis intervention training held in Colorado Springs

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – An officer dying of cancer and threatening suicide and a man refusing to leave a bathroom stall are among the scenarios experienced this week by 30 local law enforcement officers in Colorado Springs.

The El Paso County Sheriff’s Office is hosting a crisis intervention training session at the county’s emergency management office.

In the weeklong session, police officers and sheriff’s deputies learn how to de-escalate a situation and calm a person down, thereby avoiding a violent confrontation and making it easier for the person to get help.

The roles of the people needing help are played by a group of Denver-area actors, including one who had roles on “Perry Mason” and other TV shows.

That actor, Richard Bealls, said the performers are given scripts that are based on actual law enforcement experiences.

“We form our characters based on that, as well as on ride-alongs with officers and conversations we have with mental health professionals and families of mentally ill patients,” he said.  “I’m pretty good at aggravating people.  A lot of law enforcement personnel like me because I can amp it up and pick on little things they say.”

The intensity of the actor in the role of the suicidal officer was overwhelming for Katie McFarran, a Colorado Springs police officer in her second year on the force.

“I wasn’t anticipating that,” she said after the strong emotions of the scenario forced her to take a break. “That actually caught me completely off guard.  I have responded to types of calls like that.  Maybe not so much in depth, definitely not a fellow officer in distress and going through a time of crisis.  But I’ll be better for the experience.  I learned a lot today.”

Sgt. Eric Frederic, a training coordinator for the exercise, said only around half of county deputies and city police officers have had the training.

“We have three 30-member classes a year,” he said.  “It’s hard to get personnel time off to attend a weeklong class.  But we really need these skills, particularly with the mental health issues we see on calls for welfare checks and the people with mental health issues in the jail.”

Experienced officers serve as the trainers, critiquing the response by each officer and suggesting ways to improve.

The training session costs approximately $50,000, with most of the cost paid individually by EPCSO, the Colorado Springs Police Department and the National Alliance on Mental Illness when each entity hosts a session.

Trainees graduate after Friday’s class, which includes 19 El Paso County sheriff’s deputies, nine police officers and a deputy from the Teller County Sheriff’s Office.

Feb 28, 2019
By Scott Harrison

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