Craig Police Department relies on specific training, specialized resources when called to attempts of suicide
For a police officer in Craig, the goal is always to protect the public from harm.
But sometimes, the source of the potential harm is coming from the victim of the harm.
It’s concerningly common, said one Craig Police sergeant, for the city’s law enforcement force to be called to a location where an individual is in some stage of attempting to end his or her own life.
“It can be scary sometimes, not knowing what you’re walking into,” said Craig Police patrol sergeant Corey Wagner. “Nobody wants to see somebody hurt or see them hurt themselves. There’s some apprehension going in, but our main thing is to get them help.”
Wagner said a call of this nature runs the gamut from someone simply thinking about suicide, to combative, agitated, out-of-control individuals who are trying to harm themselves, to attempts in progress and, sadly, to those who have carried out the deed entirely.
“If it’s just talk at that point, we get them connected with someone from mental health to help them out,” Wagner said. “If it’s mid-suicide attempt, it changes the response. Now we’re into rescue mode — lifesaving mode at that point. And then, sometimes, you get there and it’s already done. They’re beyond rescue.”
Wagner said that, while Craig Police doesn’t have a formalized co-responder unit — a dedicated team of an officer, a social worker and a paramedic, for example, who responds to non-law enforcement emergency calls — like some larger cities have established in recent years, they do have a strong connection and collaboration with highly trained caregivers from the hospital, fire department, and from their primary mental health contractor, Mind Springs.
“Mind Springs is on call for outreach at any time,” Wagner said. “There’s other organizations we work with, but in an emergency situation, it’s Mind Springs. They’re the mental health responders.”
Police are often first on the scene, and sometimes are therefore the ones who are tasked with the rescue from suicidal ideations. And so, Wagner said, they are also trained specifically for these all-too frequent encounters.
“There are special trainings,” he said. “We’ve done mental health first-aid, we do something called CIT, or Crisis Intervention Training. That’s a week-long class, they bring in role players, actors, and we do scenario training. Very specific training for responses to things, we get that real-world application on dealing with people who are depressed or sad, or even who are combative and resistant to help. We work to talk them into accepting help voluntarily.”
However, the police are authorized to take someone who won’t accept help into temporary custody if they feel that’s the only way to save someone from themselves. It’s called a temporary mental health hold.
“Really though, if we can get them to a point where they’re willing to accept help, that’s the win for everybody,” Wagner said.
There’s also additional training, Wagner said, via video and printed material.
The primary responsibility, again, is to protect, Wagner said.
“You want to get in, you want to talk to them,” he said. “Depending on the person and the mood they’re in, sometimes it’s very angry and agitated, yelling, screaming, and sometimes it’s just someone who’s really depressed and needs someone to talk to. There’s all kinds of situations, and we have to be able to change at a moment’s notice how we’re reacting with that person to do what’s best to help resolve the situation.”
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