CLAREMORE, Okla. — Claremore Police are helping their officers better deal with some of their toughest calls - mental health calls. They're doing so with extra training, provided by their own officers.
Patrolman Brian Burnett has been on the force for 19 years. In that time, he's learned responding to mental health calls is a constant. However, in recent years, he says the training has become a lot more thorough.
"How to talk to them, how to stand, how to interact, how to calm that situation down - to prevent any kind of physical altercation," Burnett said.
Claremore Police are now taking that training a step further. Burnett and five other officers are taking a 40-hour class to develop their own eight-hour program. They'll take that program to their fellow officers at the department as part of a new mandatory class.
"We know and relate to each other. We work with each other, so we understand. When one of our peers comes back and says, 'hey, this is something I learned and it works', it's better received by their peers," Chief Stan Brown said.
All officers also have iPads on them to be able to video chat with licensed counselors at any time. They say the face-to-face interaction with a professional can change the entire situation.
"Personally, there's been several incidents when I don't know what I would have done without it," Burnett said.
Officers call counselors with Grand Lake Mental Health like Keri Alva, who says the interaction has helped more people take proper first steps to address their needs.
"It's immensely helpful because I can hear directly from the person and ask them direct questions," Alva said. "I've actually had people who really weren't wanting to come in and get help, and since they saw my face and I said 'I'm here at the IOC and I'll be here when you get here', they've been more comfortable with that."
The iPads in use have become a reliable tool for officers, who are also now putting to use new body and dash cams across the department.
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