Brookline Police leading effort for mental health training for officers in Mass.

Local police departments leading effort for mental health training for officers in Mass.

FRANKLIN, Mass. — Mental health training has become a critical tool in law enforcement. A state funded program led by a team of Brookline Police officers helps give police officers a personal account of what it might be like to have a mental health issue.

Franklin Police Chief Thomas Lynch says his officers never know what they are dealing with until they get on scene. Towns like Franklin now regularly send their officers to Crisis Intervention Training classes to lean how to identify and react to people with mental health issues instead of just locking them up.

“A lot of times they are not violent and the person is just looking for someone to listen to them, someone to support them,” Chief Lynch said.

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Chief Lynch nominated one of his officers to be recognized by the team of Brookline Police who teach the class. Brookline Police Lt. Jennifer Paster told us nearly a dozen officers are getting the honor.

“I think the officers recognized in these awards are really doing day to day really good work and they care about the communities they serve,” Lt. Paster said.

In the training, officers wear headphones with auditory hallucinations playing over and over in the head while they try to do a simple task. Boston 25 News had exclusive access to one of the classes in recent years and saw how the officers train by putting themselves in the same scenario as someone dealing with a mental health issue.

Franklin Police Officer Tyler Peabody said he is honored to get the award after taking the class and applying what he learned on the streets.

“Slowing things down and just communicate and listening to the person is key,” Officer Peabody said.

The state funded program has also helped embed clinicians in the police department so they can be dispatched to a scene and offer their resources first hand.

“Sometimes it is nice having someone there who is not in uniform, some people just take to that a little better than others,” Officer Peabody said.

Police say the pandemic has made this training even more vital.

“He has jumped in with two feet, and I think it is fantastic he is being recognized for that,” Chief Lynch said.