I-Team gets look inside special Cleveland police training

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CLEVELAND– The FOX 8 I-Team has gone into a place never seen before to get a glimpse of how Cleveland police officers are learning how to deal with people battling mental health issues.

Police are sending more officers through specialized training, in part, because of the case of Tanisha Anderson.

Anderson died in police custody. Police say she struggled with officers trying to take her to a psych evaluation. She later died. And the medical examiner found the cause of death was a combination of factors including the mental health issue and the police restraint.

The Anderson family has called for more training like this for Cleveland police, and so have the feds.

More Cleveland police officers than ever are going through what’s called Crisis Intervention Training. Officers take a 40-hour course that includes officers playing the role of someone having a mental breakdown. Those officers wear headphones and hear recorded voices—much as someone with a mental health condition might. Other officers get put to the test. How should they react?

Cleveland police say about half of all officers on duty at any given time have been trained like this, and there are plans for more. Officer Mike Viancourt helps organize the classes, and he told the I-Team “It’s really a great awareness level course into what mental illness is and the different ways it can affect somebody.”

Records show, last year, Cleveland police handled more than 2,400 calls for crisis intervention. They include suicide attempts, mental breakdowns, and folks in distress from voices.

The training gets conducted by the Cuyahoga County ADAMHS Board, the board of alcohol, drug addiction, and mental health services. The leader of the agency, William Denihan told us, “And this gives them a viewpoint of change and difference. And they will notice a difference, not only on the streets, but with their own families.”

The agency has been doing this for police throughout the area for years. But now, a new urgency for Cleveland police.

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