BRENTWOOD, Tenn. — At least once a day, Brentwood police officer Mark Stephens says officers get called to a mental health breakdown.
“There’s often a lot of yelling and screaming and occasionally violence,” Stephens said.
It’s chaos he’s now trained to recognize and to deescalate.
“We learn about mental illness,” Stephens said. “We learn about personality disorders.”
Brentwood Police recently formed a “Crisis Intervention Team.”
“Get them to focus on you by speaking clamly, making good eye contact,” Stephens said.
Six officers were trained in how to recognize and respond to different mental illnesses.
Stephens says bipolar disorder, chronic depression, and schizophrenia are some of the illnesses he sees most.
“They talk to themselves,” he said. “They’re very distracted.”
Nashville Sheriff Daron Hall says his correction officers get similar training through the program Handle with Care.
“If the person doesn’t understand what you’re asking them to do, we typically have used force in corrections,” Hall said to News 2 during an interview in April. “We’re trying to get away from that.”
Two high-profile cases involving a man climbing on top of an I-65 sign and another man walking through the airport caused Hall to focus on mental health initiatives.
“We’ll treat it as what it is, an illness instead of a crime,” Hall said.
Stephens hopes the training will lead people to treatment instead of jail.
“What good does it do to take an ill person and put them in jail?” Stephens said.