Crisis Intervention Team in Tampa
After the tragic and preventable death of Black PTSD veteran Sidney Richardson in 2018, the Restorative Justice Coalition responded along with activist Michelle Williams by drawing attention and protest to the racial and mental health violence faced in the City. In March of 2018, the Restorative Justice Coalition met with Police Chief Brian Dugan to talk about the race disparity and the concerns regarding the mentally ill, especially Black mentally ill, and how they are treated by the police. The meeting was met with contempt and unfortunately, RJC was abruptly escorted out of the meeting.
Since that time, RJC has continued to discuss with political candidates and elected officials the importance of critical intervention programs, who can respond to mental health crises with trained mental health workers, no guns and no police. In August 2019, after witnessing a brutal anti-Black, ableist takedown of a mentally ill Black man, RJC engaged the Mayor, the Chief and the City Council to demand accountability for how Black mentally ill residents are treated.
While RJC certainly cannot take full credit for this transformation, in late 2019, the Police Chief announced the introduction of a mobile crisis until of whom will respond to mental health crisis when 911 is dialed--an extremely important step in the right direction. There will also be mandatory de-escalation training for officers.
"The program’s curriculum includes training and material provided by service providers in the area such as the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay and Gracepoint. Topics include how some drugs can produce effects that mimic mental illness, the signs and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and situational training on how to handle a potential “suicide by cop” situation.
“It’s about us training our officers to do everything they possibly can to de-escalate a situation and use deadly force as a last resort in every situation,” Dugan said.
A portion of the training will include sessions with experts and family members who can offer real-life perspective."
Dugan said one of the main goals is to teach dispatchers how to triage calls and seek assistance from service providers and better recognize when sending a uniformed officer might be unnecessary or even agitate a situation.
“Working with our partners, maybe we can divert some of these calls to experts in the mental health field as opposed to sending police officers,” he said. “But the ultimate goal is when we do send a police officer, they’re going to be better trained, they’re going to be more empathetic, compassionate and aware of what was going on.”