Manic or Malicious? More police officer training required by law

Manic or Malicious? More police officer training required by law

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - To help detect and de-escalate mental illness emergencies, police in South Carolina are now mandated more training by state law.

The new law requires added hours of crisis training, to be able to tell the difference between someone having a manic episode, and someone who is malicious.

In addition to the now five hours of training certain officers are required to have, added hours will have to be factored into the 40-hour re-certification the mandate of officers every three years.

More law enforcement will be included in that, too, like corrections officers and security staff.

"No two calls are going to be the same that dealing with, either in training or in the real world," Major John Yarborough at the Criminal Justice Academy said.

Yarborough said as he walked WIS through the department's crisis house training simulator that more people will go through crisis training. Officers role play, responding to different scenarios based off of real-life incidents here.

"Anytime we think we've seen it all, we get a new class," Yarborough said.

Officers are trained to spot the mental illness and de-escalate the situation. It's possible for an officer to fail training, based on the response to the scenario.

"We have to make split-second decisions, like that," former officer and former corrections tech Lefford Fate adds.

Fate is in support of the new law. He was formerly an officer in the Air Force and a mental health technician with the Department of Corrections.

"I want all my brothers and sisters in arms, law enforcement, security to know the best tactics to keep themselves safe," Fate says.

"I can talk that person down. They can put themselves in a situation where they're safer," he adds, "by a law enforcement officer or a first responder understanding that this person is acting out of sorts not because they're trying to be evil or be bad, but because they're under some type of distress."

Fate believes that more scenarios and tactics on how to spot and help a person in distress will keep officers and the person and potential victims safer.

NAMI or the National Alliance on Mental Illness Executive Director Bill Lindsey agrees.

"If somebody's in the middle of psychosis, they have really two things on their mind. Usually, they're terrified. So, if they're afraid, you're either going to get fight or flight," Lindsey says. "You know, if they're approached aggressively they'll respond aggressively, or they'll run."

Things like responding hands-off, and acting as a counselor, are included here.

"Our job is to guide it and to make sure it doesn't get too far out of hand," Yarborough says.

Officers already certified and working in the field will be able to get the training online.

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