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Sunday, June 16
The Indiana Daily Student

Council hears training tips

The Monroe County Criminal Justice Coordinating Council heard a presentation Wednesday advocating the implementation of a new police training method. The training model, in use by the Fort Wayne Police Department since 2001, seeks to respect the rights of the mentally ill and prevent jail overcrowding.\nThe issue has moved to the forefront following the November death of Bedford resident James L. Borden, Sr. Borden died in police custody at the Monroe County Jail after being shocked with a Taser gun three times.\nIf police had been trained under the Crisis Intervention Team model, the incident would have never happened, said Vid Beldavs, member of Citizens Investigating the Death of James L. Borden Sr.\n"It would definitely have been prevented. He wouldn't have been tasered," Beldavs said.\nUnder CIT training, officers bring subjects suffering from a mental episode to a hospital rather than jail.\nFort Wayne police sergeant Tony Maze, who supervises over 70 CIT-trained officers, said implementation of the program has led to a dramatic decrease in public intoxication, disorderly conduct, and resisting arrest charges -- drastically affecting the jail population.\n"If we had taken everyone that appeared intoxicated and put them in lockup, the population would have exploded," Maze said.\nIn 2003, only six arrests were made by Fort Wayne officers out of 1,000 contacts with mentally ill subjects. The exception lies in felony cases in which the suspects are incarcerated before being evaluated by a doctor.\nMaze said the police have become so trusted family members won't hesitate to call for help if they know their loved one is having a breakdown.\nThe CIT model originated in Memphis, Tenn. It was brought to Fort Wayne, largely due to the efforts of Jane Novak, who is active with the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill. Novak pushed for a change in police training after her mentally ill son was repeatedly struck by police during an arrest.\nAfter achieving success in Fort Wayne, she is looking to spread the training across both the state and the country as whole.\n"This is a priority to me. It will change the lives of everyone," Novak said. "Not only the person with the mental illness, but all of those involved in the treatment of the person. It's of the upmost importance to get CIT trained officers everywhere."\nIn order for such a program to be implemented, arrangements also need to be made with local hospitals to make sure they have a secure area in which people can be treated.\nMonroe County Prosecutor Carl Salzmann, a member of the MCCJCC, said discussions he's had involving treatment of mentally ill persons who have been arrested has not been taken seriously enough in the past.\n"Unfortunately, it seems that no one listens to the people in the system until something bad happens," Salzmann said.\nHe criticized the state and federal legislatures for passing mandates regarding mental health issues and providing no funding for the problems dealt with on a local level.\nWhile Salzmann would like to see the CIT method come to fruition locally, he does not know if and when it will happen.\n"There are many issues the criminal justice system is facing right now. This is one of them," Salzmann said. "It's on the frontburner. But there are a lot of frontburners right now"

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