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RPD Updates Orders on Mental Health Arrests, De-escalation Techniques

Patti Singer
pattisinger@minorityreporter.net

The Rochester Police Department updated its policies when officers respond to a mental health call and on using de-escalation techniques.

The revisions are part of the general orders that govern policing and are effective March 30, according to a news release from the RPD.

These are the second set in a series of changes to general orders. On March 15, RPD announced revisions regarding duty to intervene when an officer observes a colleague acting inappropriately and a codification of the ban on chokeholds.

Under the mental hygiene detention:

  • Officers should assess the need for additional assistance from a mental health clinician to complete an evaluation. If additional resources are needed for an evaluation, the city’s Person in Crisis (PIC) team or the county’s Forensic Intervention Team (FIT) should be considered. PIC and FIT can assist with de-escalating behavioral crisis situations and provide appropriate referrals, especially when a mental hygiene arrest is not required.
  • If PIC/FIT are dispatched, members will assess the situation in regards to safety. If the situation is determined to be safe, members will stand by and assist PIC/FIT, while they complete their evaluation/assessment, as necessary. If a transport is required, members and PIC/FIT will coordinate the transport of the individual to the appropriate facility.
  • To prevent a person who is subject to involuntary admission from escaping, harming themselves or others, or to facilitate the safe transportation of the person, members will adhere to the use of restraining devices consistent with the department’s policies, as trained.

According to the general order, assessment is based on whether the person has a weapon, whether other people are present and whether the incident is near a bridge or river.

Officers are to establish communication with the person, explain RPD procedures and offer to bring in PIC, FIT, or the Family Crisis Intervention Team (FACIT)

The general order covers transport of the individual, regardless of whether mental health professionals are involved, communication with hospital staff, procedures if the person is facing charges and procedures if the person escapes custody.

The full order is at data-rpdny.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/go-560-psychiatric-crisis-intervention.

Under de-escalation:

  • Members shall use de-escalation techniques and tactics, when it is safe and feasible to do so, to prevent and minimize the need to use force in response to resistance and to increase the likelihood of securing a subject’s voluntary compliance with police instructions.
  • Members are expected to use de-escalation techniques that are consistent with departmental training and policy.

De-escalation is defined as “strategically slowing down an incident in a manner that allows officers more time, distance, space, and tactical flexibility during dynamic situations.”

Examples of de-escalation tactics include nonverbal cues such as stance; asking and using the person’s name while trying to build rapport; avoiding unnecessary display of weapons; using time, distance or positioning to contain the person; requesting additional resources when needed.

The order said officers “should attempt to resolve situations without using force whenever possible.

The order is at data-rpdny.opendata.arcgis.com/datasets/go-575-de-escalation.

In the next few weeks, RPD is expected to release updated policies on use of force and juvenile detention.