De-escalation key in training police to deal with the mentally ill

The homeless, mentally ill man holding a knife is surrounded by officers — guns drawn — in a parking lot.

“Drop the knife!” an officer is heard yelling on fuzzy cellphone video shot by a passing motorist.

Seconds later, a blaze of shots ring out — more than 40 — and the man drops to the ground.

Video of the fatal 2012 shooting incident in Saginaw, Mich., was shown recently to a group of new police recruits at the Justice Institute of B.C. during a daylong session that emphasized de-escalation techniques and alternative strategies for dealing with people suffering from mental illness.

While such training has become standard in police colleges and academies across the country, experts acknowledge there is no consistency in how that training is delivered. Nor has there been any rigorous evaluation of whether the training actually makes a difference.

Douglas Quan Reports

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