Police train for better responses to calls dealing with mentally ill

MENASHA – De-escalating a dangerous situation: that’s what police from around the state have been working on during a week of training in the Fox Valley.

The focus has been on dealing with mental disorders.

Gathered in a classroom at the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley, police officers from around the state watch a familiar scene unfold.

In another room, two police officers are on a mock call to an apartment for a noise complaint.

But as tensions begin to rise, a week of critical incident training for officers kicks in.

“To see that there might be underlying issues and if we can address those underlying issues, we might not have to keep going back to those same residences or same people over and over again,” said Officer Rebecca Rupnick of the Sheboygan Police Department.

The training is led by Sgt. John Wallschlaeger of the Appleton Police Department. He says the training scenarios are about helping officers take what they’ve learned, and put those skills into practice.

“The CIT training component gives officers information about mental illness and then things they can watch for so they recognize them on the call.”

Officers say training like this is important because they run into situations just like these scenarios every day.

“We see more of these situations, but it’s because we are understanding more of these situations. It used to just be that we would take them to jail and resolve the situation that way, but now we are understanding that jail may not be the best way, maybe a hospital or other services would be better for them,” said Officer William Krieg of the Appleton Police Department.

The goal is to make every call safer for the officers and the people they are trained to help.

The officers had to apply and be accepted to the 40-hour class to be certified in the critical incident training techniques.

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