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News and Notes   |    
Justice Center Guide Outlines Strategies for Training Law Enforcement Personnel
Psychiatric Services 2008; doi:
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The Justice Center of the Council of State Governments has released a publication designed to help planners develop the most effective methods to train police for encounters with persons who have mental illnesses. The 46-page guide addresses the issue of who can best serve as trainers and how they can be identified, what preparation and support they require, what teaching techniques are most effective, and how training can improve outcomes of these encounters.

The guide was prepared by the Justice Center in partnership with the Police Executive Research Forum, and the work was supported by the Bureau of Justice Assistance of the U.S. Department of Justice. The target audience is law enforcement personnel and staff at other agencies who are planning a training initiative that will support the following: a crisis intervention team; a co-responder approach, which pairs specially trained officers with mental health professionals; or another type of specialized law enforcement-based response program. The guide is also for individuals who wish to enhance existing training. It is not a how-to guide for developing specific curriculum modules. The focus is on how police can be taught most effectively, rather than on which topics should be taught.

Improving Responses to People With Mental Illnesses: Strategies for Effective Law Enforcement Training briefly describes the foundation that should be in place to support any training initiative—a multidisciplinary planning group, a coordination group for administration and day-to-day management of training, and strong support from leaders and administrators. Each chapter then presents a set of challenges that jurisdictions have faced in implementing a training initiative, followed by recommendations for addressing the challenges. To document the experiences of agencies that have implemented training, the authors conducted field surveys, phone interviews, and focus groups.

The guide is divided into two parts. Part 1, "Effective Trainers," examines strategies for selecting the best trainers—individuals from within the police department and from outside it, such as mental health professionals, consumers and family members, and personnel from other justice agencies and health organizations. Chapter 2, "Preparing to Teach a Law Enforcement Audience," emphasizes the need to involve experienced officers who understand street operations. Part 2, "Effective Training Techniques," focuses on types of experiential learning that are most likely to engage officer trainees and dispel myths about people with mental illness, such as role playing, site visits to clubhouses and outpatient facilities, testimonials and success stories from consumers, and simulations in which officers experience some of the sensations or symptoms of particular mental illnesses.

The publication is available at www.consensusproject.org.

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