Mental health training for police introduced by Oklahoma lawmakers
Two members of Oklahoma's congressional delegation have introduced bipartisan, companion bills designed to help law enforcement officers receive better training for dealing with individuals experiencing mental health crises.
In the U.S. Senate, Tulsa Republican Jim Inhofe joined Ohio Democrat Sherrod Brown in introducing the Law Enforcement Training For Mental Health Crisis Response Act of 2019. The bill is designed to provide grants to law enforcement departments at state, local, territorial and tribal levels so they can obtain behavioral health crisis training.
A companion bill was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Congresswoman Kendra Horn, D-Oklahoma City, and Ohio Republican Anthony Gonzalez.
"With the most up-to-date training, our law enforcement officers can continue to serve their communities with excellence and honor," Inhofe said. "When responding to calls, law enforcement officers need to be prepared to respond to all possible scenarios and, more and more, we're seeing that involves behavioral health crises. By improving training for these types of responses, we can better help officers, individuals in crisis and our entire community."
One in every 10 police response calls involves a person suffering from mental illness and one in every four people killed in a police response incident suffer from mental illness, officials said. Many law enforcement officers and first responders don't have the kind of training that helps them identify, understand and de-escalate volatile situations that arise from behavioral health crises.
"The training gap puts both the officers and those experiencing crisis in danger," Horn said. "This commonsense, bipartisan legislation makes our communities safer and it helps us protect our most vulnerable. We need to equip these peace officers. These grants will help."
The bill would make new grants available under the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program.