Training program helps cops interact with mentally ill

Program puts cops through scenarios, such as a veteran with PTSD scaring people in a park, a girl making suicidal posts on Facebook and others


San Jose Mercury News

SAN JOSE, Calif. - Whereas a Wii game may teach someone to master the Super Mario Brothers' quest to rescue Princess Peach, the Santa Clara County-based creators of a new interactive video simulation hope it will teach officers how to deal with the mentally ill in a way that neither the officer nor the person ends up hurt -- or worse.

On the video screen a fraught father watches as his mentally ill young son, off his medication and convinced police are secretly monitoring his every move, lurches unsteadily from a lawn chair to loudly confront an officer. What happens next? Does the young man end up arrested, in a psychiatric hospital? Does he end up dead?

The different answers to that question have been electronically built into a new and nationally unique interactive video simulation program created for law enforcement by the county mental health department and unveiled at a presentation Friday.

The key, the program's creators say, is to defuse the situation and avoid violence.

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