BOISE -- Eighteen to 20 times a day, Boise Police Officers are dispatched to calls of people in crisis, people who are distraught or unstable and could be a danger to themselves or others.
They're difficult situations, and a new report sheds some light on how the Boise Police Department is handling them.
The report comes from outgoing Boise Community Ombudsman Pierce Murphy. Years ago, Murphy recommended BPD create a Crisis Intervention Team (C.I.T).
The C.I.T. specifically deals with calls of people in crisis, and is designed to reduce injuries to those people and to officers.
Every BPD officer gets some crisis management training, but just recently, the department passed the 20 percent threshold of officers extensively trained for the C.I.T. Which means there will be a C.I.T. member available to respond, whenever they get a call of someone who is suicidal, unstable or irrational.
"We're seeing, on average, 18-20 persons a day," said Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson. "It amounts to about 6,500 cases a year of someone calling us in a crisis situation."
Murphy commended BPD in this report, saying they're committed to training officers to handle these situations as safely as they can.
Masterson says he's pleased with the report. "I'm pleased that the department is making slow, steady progress. We aren't where we want to be, but we're getting there slowly."
Masterson also says the department mostly uses tasers, not guns on these calls, but that their best tool is communication. "The better that we are of diffusing situations and talking people into compliance, the quicker we are to get them to a treatment facility and have their mental health needs addressed, instead of having physical injuries addressed."
However, Murphy said the department needs to do more with training and C.I.T. leadership. Masterson agreed, but also said the community needs to do more to keep people from getting to a critical point. "This is a safety net, where we train police officers to go out and diffuse situations and to remove the immediate crisis, but we need to do more."
As far as doing more, Masterson has talked to local school districts about their crisis plans. He's talked to media members about how we handle suicide coverage. He also talked to Health and Welfare about the possibility of creating 23-hour crisis counseling centers for people in crisis. Officers could take people in crisis to those centers, and trained professionals would talk to these people about their issues in deeper detail and connect them with community services.
There's already a great community resource for people in crisis, the Idaho Suicide Prevention Hotline. The number is 1-800-273-8255.