CLEVELAND (AP) – Cleveland officers will receive enhanced training on how to deal with people during mental health crises, a requirement in the city’s agreement with the U.S. Justice Department to reform its trouble police department, officials announced Wednesday.
The agreement was announced at a news conference with the city and the Cuyahoga County Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health Services board. An assistant safety director said 600 officers have already received 40 hours of advanced training to be certified as specialists, and all officers have received at least eight hours of training.
The reform-minded consent decree resulted from a monthslong investigation by the Justice Department that indicated there were problems with how officers treated the mentally ill.
Mayor Frank Jackson indicated that mental health training was one of the areas of disagreement between the city and DOJ.
“I’ve had those conversations in the past about how we did not agree on things completely, but we have reached a consensus and an agreement on how to proceed going forward,” Jackson said.
The mayor said the consent decree is “our greatest opportunity” to make “real reform” of the police department, an agency that has presented Cleveland mayors with some of their toughest challenges for decades.
The Justice Department’s investigative report released in December said Cleveland police officers too often use excessive force against people, including the mentally ill, some of whom had committed no crimes. The investigation led the city and DOJ to negotiate the consent decree, which a federal judge approved in June.
William Denihan, the head of Cuyahoga County ADAMHS board, said at the news conference that his agency has received federal funding to help pay for a pilot program that will send psychologists and social workers with police officers to homes where the department has received repeated calls from people who need professional help. Denihan said some of the enhanced training will include education on substance abuse and addiction.
Denihan said he hopes additional training will work toward keeping people out of the criminal justice system by providing the help they need.
“Anybody in this business knows this comment, that the largest mental health hospital is the prison system,” Denihan said. “This program gets to that.”
Copyright 2015 The Associated Press.