ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — Crisis calls to 9-1-1 can turn violent, even deadly. Investigative Reporter Daralene Jones learned the Orange County Sheriff's office is working to put together a pilot program to help people dealing with a crisis and mental illness.
Just last week, Orange County deputies were called to a State Road 408 bridge to talk a suicidal man off the ledge.
In body camera video, you can hear a deputy saying to the man on the bridge,” we want to help you. Can I come sit by you by myself?” She sat with him for 24 minutes, and offered him a pinky-swear that he wouldn’t be arrested.
These crisis calls are what would prompt a response from a new unit being developed.
“Law enforcement officer alongside a clinician, the clinician would ride in the car as a partner to law enforcement. They would actually be doing pro-active calls,” Captain Carlos Torres says.
Captain Carlos Torres has spent months researching the idea, visiting law enforcement agencies as far away as Los Angeles, to see how similar units work.
Orange County deputies already go through crisis intervention training. But the department hasn’t been able to train everyone because they compete with every local law enforcement agency for a limited number of spots. And school resource officers also have priority in those classes.
Under this proposed pilot program, Orange County would provide law enforcement training for its clinicians.
“They would go through a 40-hour basic training with our deputies in which they will learn how to use a radio, some basic defense tactics,” Captain Torres said.
Statistics provided to 9-Investigates show the Orange County Sheriff’s Office alone responded to 4,142 mental health calls this year. Last year, 7, 914, including this one.
Deputies were called to home near Goldenrod Road because a man was assaulting his mother. Deputies say they tried to talk to him and they shot him when he attacked them, we later learned he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
“We probably can’t say for 100% sure that we will not have an encounter that will not turn into a deadly encounter, but what we can do is minimize that risk,” Captain Torres said.
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