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All Road Patrol Officers in Monroe County to Get Enhanced Training in Crisis Intervention

Patti Singer

Fairport Police Chief Sam Farina answers questions Jan. 19, 2021, about a law enforcement initiative to train all road patrol offers in the county on crisis intervention. Photo by Patti Singer/Minority Reporter Media Group

All road patrol officers in Monroe County are expected to receive 40 hours of training in mental health and crisis response under a plan supported by the local law enforcement agencies.

It could take up to three years for the several hundred officers and deputies serving the city, towns and villages to receive Crisis Intervention Team training. A plan is being developed to institute the training, which could start as early as this summer.

Fairport Police Chief Sam Farina, chairman of the Monroe County Law Enforcement Council, and Gates Police Chief James VanBrederode, president of the Monroe County Chiefs Association, announced the initiative Jan. 19.

However, all nine town and village departments, the Rochester Police Department and Monroe County Sheriff’s Office signed onto a Jan. 16 news release that pledged their commitment. Each department will be responsible for the cost of the training.

About 450 officers have volunteered over the past decade or so for the training. If available, they are dispatched to assist on mental health calls. Under the plan by the Law Enforcement Council, all officers would be trained in the symptoms of mental illness, de-escalation techniques, substance use, suicide intervention and trauma response.

“We recognized the need to ensure all our personnel have the best training available to meet the needs of the community, and we are invested in this initiative 100%,” Farina said.

The training also will help officers respond to other types of calls that may not be dispatched as requiring mental health intervention but involve stressful situations.

“No one calls the police to say hello,” Farina said. “There’s always a crisis. This will provide us with the ability to be more effective at communicating, understanding the situation.

Crisis Intervention Team training is built on improving safety for officers and citizens; redirecting individuals with mental illness from the criminal justice system to the health care system; providing effective crisis response; and creating better relationships among law enforcement, mental health care providers and families.

CIT training has developed from a national training model that has existed for about 25 years, Farina said. The Rochester Police Department, under Chief Cedric Alexander, adapted the model to create the emotionally disturbed persons response team. The model has been used to develop crisis intervention training in departments across the state.

Farina said the state requires that recruits have training in mental health. He said the police academy in Monroe County, which trains officers for all departments, exceeds the mandate.

Law enforcement agencies in Monroe County responded to approximately 9,800 transports related to mental hygiene transports, according to Farina. After the family of Daniel Prude in September publicized his encounter with Rochester police on March 23 that ended in his death, attention has turned to how police respond to people in crisis.

VanBrederode said agencies have spent the past few months listening to concerns their communities have with police and mental hygiene responses.

“This is one piece of the puzzle,” he said. “This is our contribution to improving the mental health system.”