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CNY Police Officers Undergo Training to Understand and Help People with Mental Illness

Gracyn Doctor

Police officers from across Central New York graduated Friday from five days of intensive training designed to give them the tools to deescalate crisis situations.  Retired Captain John Cooney is Law Enforcement Coordinator for Central New York Crisis Intervention Team Initiative. 

He says police work is no longer just about writing tickets or solving crimes. 

“It’s a different direction then we’ve been going for the last 200 years. We are now looking as part of our job to be trained and capable to deal with people experiencing mental health challenges.” said Cooney.

Grants from ACCESS CNY and the CNY Care Collaborative fund the training, which aims for better outcomes for those in crisis and officers.  Jeffrey Draper is a campus officer at Onondaga Community College with 35 years in law enforcement.  He says he’ll be better prepared to handle students in a crisis.

“Somebody that comes to our department. They don’t where else to go but they come to campus safety. I can be one of those officers that can now stand up to the plate and get them the services that is required for them.” said Draper.

Cooney says the program will help officers better understand people.

“The officers that leave this program will leave here with an entirely new perspective as far as the things that happen to a person when they’re under stress or experiencing mental illness.”

Cooney says the training also encourages the officers to share with each other or a professional what they saw and how they felt after a traumatic situation, so they don’t carry the pain with them.