Denver police officers respond to a variety of calls each day. Often it is a call to a mental health crisis.
“Police don’t just enforce the law,” said the sergeant. Mike Vogler of the Denver Police Training Authority. “Whatever the situation is, it’s about helping people who can’t handle themselves and need help.”
The city has added programs to help people with mental health crises to limit interactions with police, STAR program, etc. – Officers encounter people who are still struggling. This is a big reason why DPD requires all officers to undergo her 40 hours of crisis intervention training.
“We looked not only at overviews of mental illness, but also how and why people get into crisis situations,” Vogler explains. “That includes mental health issues that aren’t necessarily criminals, and need to be able to respond appropriately.”
On Wednesday, more than a dozen police officers and paramedics were honored for exceptionally good handling of such calls.
Vincent Atchti, Executive Director of Mental Health in Colorado, said at the luncheon.
Among those recognized was Corporal Ernest Quintana. He was the first to appear at the scene of a man preparing to jump off a roof, and by taking the time to listen to him, Quintana managed to save the man’s life.
“We sat down, talked to him for over 40 minutes, and were able to get him off,” Quintana said.
Quintana said that while the award and recognition are well received, we still have a lot to learn and do as a community to help those struggling with mental illness.
“This requires more follow-up and long-term solutions,” he said.
The larger goal is to improve and make the mental health care system more accessible in Colorado and throughout the country. Until then, DPD personnel will continue to apply her CIT training to help those in need.
“We want to do it right and make sure we do it right every time,” said Vogler.