Police Officers Learn How to Deal with People with Disabilities - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Police Officers Learn How to Deal with People with Disabilities

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KENNEWICK, Wash. - If people with mental health problems get mixed up with the law, how does a police officer know what kind of treatment they need, rather than sending them to jail?

Police officers confront a wide variety of people everyday. Some can be just criminals but others may have problems not easily noticed, problems like mental health illnesses.

In a forty hour week long training course, officers from a number of different law enforcement agencies from the Tri-Cities to King County are at the Kennewick Police Station to learn the signs and symptoms of a person with mental health issues or other special needs. The training allows officers to refer them to other services available, rather than just put them in jail.

"When they're working with someone who's behaviors are obviously driven by a major mental health disorder and they recognize that, they might be able to seek alternative treatment or placement for that person," said Ed Thornbrugh with Benton and Franklin Counties Department of Human Services.

During the training, people with mental disabilities or their family members will come into the class to tell their experiences.

Officers are then trained with the skills to handle certain situations while given scenarios they often experience out in the field.