Local police sharpen skills to help those in crisis

SPOKANE, Wash. — Sweeping police reform is going into effect on Sunday. Many common policing practices are going away including chokeholds, neck restraints and “no knock” warrants. With these changes comes more emphasis on crisis prevention.

“It develops officers skills to identify people with behavioral health issues,” said Jay Kernkamp, a sergeant with the Spokane Police Department.

Training is going on all week at the Police Academy. Officers  learn by role playing in crisis situations including manic episodes and suicidal situations. Police work to calm down the people, let them know they care and offer safe resources for those in distress.

“If we can show that empathy to these individuals that are in crisis, our goal is to have a different outcome,” Kernkamp said.

A lot of the time, these individuals don’t need to go to jail. Trainings like this give officers more tools they can use. Spokane Police have been hosting training workshops like this for over 20 years, but many of their workshops were virtual this past year because of COVID.

Now, they’re getting back to in-person training, and other agencies are also attending the 40-hour workshops. When these new laws go into effect, all agencies in Washington will have to practice crisis response.