BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — Police across the country have come under fire for the use of force. Calls for licensed mental health councilors to accompany police have been loud among those calling for police reforms in the United States and here in Buffalo.
“There are situations our officers encounter on a street or at a larceny call or something that rapidly escalates and turns into an obvious mental health situation,” said Buffalo Police Deputy Chief Joseph Gramaglia. “We don’t have time to wait for a mental health councilor.”
Police say in order for officers to do their jobs, they need to be equip with the tools to deal with all types of subjects and situations, including those with mental health issues. Police say often times, those struggling pose a risk to themselves and others.
That’s why, Buffalo Police are adding new ways to deal with neighbors in crisis, learning new de-escalation training through a state-of-the-art program called I-CAT.
“This training is designed specifically for dealing with people who are unarmed or dealing with something less than a firearm,” Gramaglia said.
The program allows officers to slow a situation down, maintain communication and create distance between a subject. Officers say the goal is to completely eliminate the use of force, and stop a situation before it gets out of control.
“Across the board, this training showed reduction in the use of force to officers and to citizens,” said Chuck Wexler, the Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum in Washington, D.C. “They’re going to get these kind of calls anyhow.”
Gramaglia says this doesn’t include calls where officers are dealing with a person with a firearm or the person is threatening to an officer.
“There’s a difference if the person is running at you with a knife and there’s just no other option,” Gramaglia said. “There’s something called a person who is a treat and threatening. A threat is someone who is a threat to themselves. Someone who is threatening is someone who is charging at you with a weapon and coming to attack you.”
Wexler says through the training, officers are learning skills to diffuse situations in a safe way.
“This is something we’re doing to have better outcomes for everyone involved,” Gramaglia said.
The eight-hour training program took place this week.
The program cost the department $10,709. BPD says it was paid for by drug forfeiture money.