Tucson police train for increase in mental health calls - Tucson News Now

Tucson police train for increase in mental health calls

Tucson police take more than 5,000 people a year to a mental health facility. (Source: KOLD News 13) Tucson police take more than 5,000 people a year to a mental health facility. (Source: KOLD News 13)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Over the past few years the Tucson Police Department has seen a spike in the number of people they respond to who are suffering from a mental health crisis.

TPD said in the past they used to take an average of 1,500 people a year to a mental health facility in Tucson, but now that number has climbed to more than 5,000 people a year.

“Both in Tucson and nationwide we are seeing a prevalence of people who will try to force police officers into lethal encounters,” said Sgt. Jason Winsky, head of TPD’s Mental Health Support Team.

One of those encounters happened last month in Tucson. There was an officer-involved shooting at the South Lawn Cemetery. Police said Joseph Zimmerman was suicidal and pointed his gun at officers.

“We train to do everything we can to avoid those situations,” Winsky said.

Winsky said substance abuse and prescription drugs have contributed to the increase in mental health calls. His team, which started 3 years ago, has gone through extensive training. The first thing they do on a call is try to ground the person back to reality.

“I don’t see what you’re seeing and neither do the other officers here so can we consider the possibility that there’s not something there that’s threatening you,” Winsky said.

Winsky said “low and slow” communication is key as they try to get the person to drop their weapon.

“We always tell them put the phone down, whatever else might be in your hands, keys anything, put it all down and slowly walk outside,” Winsky said.

Officers also work to create distance and barriers to stay protected during the negotiations. Winsky said once in custody, the suspect’s mental health problems are not going to be solved in jail and that’s why they work to get folks the help they need and take then to a mental health facility.

“More people receiving more treatment, the better the outcomes are going to be no matter what, for us as police officers, for the community for the city, for everyone it’s better,” Winsky said.

Winsky also said the majority of people suffering from a mental illness are not dangerous. He said just listening to the person can also help de-escalate the situation.

If you or someone you know needs mental health help there is a community-wide crisis line available 24/7 at 520-622-6000.

CRIME COVERAGE: The KOLD News 13 mugshots of the month.

MOBILE USERS: Download the Tucson News Now app for Apple and Android devices.

Copyright 2017 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.

  • Crime & CourtsMore>>

  • breaking

    Marana road rage shooting suspect indicted for murder

    Marana road rage shooting suspect indicted for murder

    Monday, July 24 2017 3:34 PM EDT2017-07-24 19:34:21 GMT
    Martin Padilla (Used with family's permission)Martin Padilla (Used with family's permission)

    A grand jury indicted Marcus Dickson on a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Martin Padilla on June 30.

    A grand jury indicted Marcus Dickson on a second-degree murder charge for the shooting death of Martin Padilla on June 30.

  • Tucson veteran's home burglarized while he was at chemotherapy treatment

    Tucson veteran's home burglarized while he was at chemotherapy treatment

    Monday, July 24 2017 2:04 PM EDT2017-07-24 18:04:03 GMT
    Cook explains what happened to reporter Kristin Haubrich (Source: Tucson News Now).Cook explains what happened to reporter Kristin Haubrich (Source: Tucson News Now).

    A Tucson veteran’s home was recently broken into while he was at the VA Medical Center for chemotherapy treatment. Now the family needs the community’s help tracking down the suspect.

    A Tucson veteran’s home was recently broken into while he was at the VA Medical Center for chemotherapy treatment. Now the family needs the community’s help tracking down the suspect.

  • TPD creates board to review officers' use of force

    TPD creates board to review officers' use of force

    Monday, July 24 2017 1:36 PM EDT2017-07-24 17:36:20 GMT
    Several civilians learned about the use of force for police officers (Source: Tucson News Now).Several civilians learned about the use of force for police officers (Source: Tucson News Now).

    The Tucson Police Department is creating a special board consisting of sergeants, lieutenants and six Tucson residents that will soon be in charge of reviewing cases in which officers had to use force out on the field while on duty.

    The Tucson Police Department is creating a special board consisting of sergeants, lieutenants and six Tucson residents that will soon be in charge of reviewing cases in which officers had to use force out on the field while on duty.

Powered by Frankly